The Project Gutenberg EBook of Holiday Stories for Young People, by Various This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Holiday Stories for Young People Author: Various Editor: Margaret E. Sangster Release Date: September 4, 2005 [EBook #16648] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HOLIDAY STORIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE *** Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Janet Blenkinship and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
Louis Klopsch, Proprietor,
BIBLE HOUSE, NEW YORK.
Copyright, 1896, By Louis Klopsch.
|To John and Jane, to Fred and Frank,|
|To Theodore and Mary,|
|To Willie and to Reginald,|
|To Louis, Sue and Gary;|
|To sturdy boys and merry girls,|
|And all the dear young people|
|Who live in towns, or live on farms,|
|Or dwell near spire or steeple;|
|To boys who work, and boys who play,|
|Eager, alert and ready,|
|To girls who meet each happy day|
|With faces sweet and steady;|
|To dearest comrades, one and all,|
|To Harry, Florrie, Kate,|
|To children small, and children tall,|
|This book I dedicate.|
Boys and girls, I am proud to call a host of you my personal friends, and I dearly love you all. It has been a great pleasure to me to arrange this gift book for you, and I hope you will like the stories and ballads, and spend many happy hours over them. One story, "The Middle Daughter," was originally published in Harper's "Round Table," and is inserted here by consent of Messrs. Harper and Brothers. Two of the ballads, "Horatius," and "The Pied Piper," belong to literature, and you cannot afford not to know them, and some of the fairy stories are like bits of golden coin, worth treasuring up and reading often. Miss Mary Joanna Porter deserves the thanks of the boys for the aid she has given in the making of this volume, and the bright stories she has contributed to its pages.
A merry time to you, boys and girls, and a heart full of love from your steadfast friend,
|The Clover Leaf Club of Bloomingdale.—By M.E. Sangster|
|CHAPTER I.—THE HEROINE PRESENTS HERSELF.|
|CHAPTER II.—COMPANY TO TEA AND SOME RECEIPTS.|
|CHAPTER III.—A FAIR WHITE LOAF.|
|CHAPTER IV.—HOW TO SWEEP.|
|CHAPTER V.—A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING.|
|CHAPTER VI.—A CANDY PULL.|
|CHAPTER VII.—KEEPING ACCOUNTS.|
|CHAPTER VIII.—WE GIVE A RECEPTION.|
|The Lighthouse Lamp.—By M.E. Sangster.|
|The Family Mail-bag.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|A Day's Fishing.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|Why Charlie Didn't Go.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|Uncle Giles' Paint Brush.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|The Pied Piper of Hamelin.—By Robert Browning|
|A Girl Graduate.—By Cynthia Barnard|
|A Christmas Frolic.—By M.E. Sangster|
|Archie's Vacation.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|A Birthday Story.—By M.E. Sangster|
|A Coquette.—By Amy Pierce|
|Horatius.—By T.B. Macaulay|
|A Bit of Brightness.—By Mary Joanna Porter|
|How Sammy Earned the Prize.—By M.E. Sangster|
|The Glorious Fourth.|
|The Middle Daughter.—By M.E. Sangster|
|CHAPTER I.—AT THE MANSE.|
|CHAPTER II.—AT WISHING-BRAE.|
|CHAPTER III.—GRACE TAKES A HAND.|
|CHAPTER IV.—TWO LITTLE SCHOOLMARMS.|
|CHAPTER V.—CEMENTS AND RIVETS.|
|CHAPTER VI.—THE TOWER ROOM.|
|The Golden Bird.—By the Brothers Grimm|
|Harry Pemberton's Text.—By Elizabeth Armstrong|
|The Boy Who Dared to Be a Daniel.—By S. Jennie Smith|
|Little Redcap.—By the Brothers Grimm|
|New Zealand Children.|
|The Breeze from the Peak.|
|The Bremen Town Musicians.—By the Brothers Grimm|
|A Very Queer Steed, and Some Strange Adventures.—Told after Ariosto, by Elizabeth Armstrong|
|Freedom's Silent Host.By M.E. Sangster|
|Presence of Mind.By M.E. Sangster|
|The Boy Who Went from the Sheepfold to the Throne.—By M.E. Sangster|
My name is Milly Van Doren, and I am an only child. I won't begin by telling you how tall I am, how much I weigh, and the color of my eyes and hair, for you would not know very much more about my looks after such an inventory than you do without it, and mother says that in her opinion it is pleasantest to form one's own idea of a girl in a story book. Mother says, too, that a good rule in stories is to leave out introductions, and so I will follow her advice and plunge into the middle of my first morning. It was early summer and very lovely, and I was feeling half-sad and half-glad, with the gladness surpassing the sadness, because I had never before been half so proud and important.
Father and mother, after talking and planning and hesitating over it a long while, were actually going on a journey just by themselves and without me; and I, being now considered old enough and steady enough, was to stay at home, keep house, and take care of dear grandmamma. With Aunt Hetty at the helm, the good old servant, whose black face had beamed over my cradle fifteen years ago, and whose strong arms had come between mother and every roughness during her twenty years of housekeeping, it really looked as if I might be trusted, and as if mother need not give me so many anxious directions. Did mother think me a baby? I wondered resentfully. Father always reads my face like an open page.
"Thee may leave something to Milly's discretion, dear," he said, in his slow, stately way.
"Thee forgets her inexperience, love," said my gentle mother.
Father and mother are always courtly and tender with one another, never hasty of speech, never impatient. They have been lovers, and then they are gentlefolk. Father waited, and mother kept on telling me about grandmamma and the cat, the birds and the best china, the fire on the hearth in cool evenings, and the last year's canned fruit, which might as well be used up while she was away, particularly the cherries and plums.
"May the girls come over often?" I asked.
"Whenever you like," said mother. "Invite whom you please, of course."
Here father held up his watch warningly. It was time to go, if they were to catch the train. Arm in arm they walked down the long avenue to the gate, after bidding me good-bye. Grandmamma watched them, waving her handkerchief from the window of her room over the porch, and at the last moment I rushed after them for a final kiss and hug.
"Be good, dear child, and let who will be clever," said father, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Don't forget to count the silver every morning," said mother.
And so my term of office began. Bloomdale never wore a brighter face than during that long vacation—a vacation which extended from June till October. We girls had studied very diligently all winter. In spring there had been scarlet fever in the village, and our little housekeepers, for one cause or another, had seldom held meetings; and some of the mothers and older sisters declared that it was just what they had expected, our ardor had cooled, and nothing was coming of our club after all that had been said when we organized.
As president of the Bloomdale Clover Leaf Club I determined that the club should now make up for lost time, and having carte-blanche from mother, as I supposed, I thought I would set about work at once. Cooking was our most important work, and there's no fun in cooking unless eating is to follow; so the club should be social, and give luncheons, teas and picnics, at which we might have perfectly lovely times. I saw no reason for delay, and with my usual impulsiveness, consulted nobody about my first step.
And thus I made mistake number one. Cooking and housekeeping always look perfectly easy on paper. When you come to taking hold of them in real earnest with your own hands you find them very different and much harder.
Soon after I heard the train whistle, and knew that father and mother were fairly gone, I harnessed old Fan to the phaeton, and set out to visit every one of the girls with an invitation to tea the very next evening. I did put my head into grandmamma's chamber to tell her what I thought of doing, but the dear old lady was asleep in her easy-chair, her knitting lying in her lap, and I knew she did not wish to be disturbed. I closed the door softly and flew down stairs.
Just as I was ready to start, Aunt Hetty came to the kitchen door, calling me, persuasively: "Miss Milly, honey, what yo' done mean to hab for dinner?"
Mother knew me better than father did. I found out later that this wasn't at all a proper way to keep house, giving no orders, and leaving things to the discretion, of the cook. But I hadn't really begun yet, and I was wild to get the girls together.
Bloomdale is a sort of scattered up-hill and down-dale place, with one long and broad street running through the centre of the village, and houses standing far apart from each other, and well back from the pavement in the middle of the green lawns, swept into shadow by grand old trees. The Bloomdale people are proud of the town, and keep the gardens beautiful with flowers and free from weeds. Life in Bloomdale would be perfectly delightful, all the grown-up people say, if it were not for the everlasting trouble about servants, who are forever changing their places and going away, and complaining that the town is dull, and their church too distant, and life inconvenient; and so every one envies my mother, who has kept Hetty all these years, and never had any trouble at all.
At least I fancied that to be so, till I was a housekeeper myself, and found out that Aunt Hetty had spells of temper and must be humored, and was not perfect, any more than other people vastly above her in station and beyond her in advantages.
I stopped for Linda Curtis, and she jumped into the phaeton and went with me. We asked Jeanie Cartwright, Veva Fay, Lois Partridge, Amy Pierce and Marjorie Downing to tea the next day, and every girl of them promised to come bright and early.
When I reached home I ran to grandmamma to ask her if I had done right, and to get her advice about what I would better have for my bill of fare.
"Thee is too precipitate, dear child," said grandmamma. "Why not have waited two or three days before having a company tea? I fear much that Hetty will be contrary, and not help as she ought. And I have one of my headaches coming."
"Oh, grandmamma!" I exclaimed. "Have you taken your pills?" I was aghast.
"Thee needn't worry, dear," replied grandmamma, quite unruffled. "I have taken them, and if the headache does not vanish before dark, I'll sleep in the south chamber to-night, and be out of the way of the stir to-morrow. I wish, though, Aunt Hetty were not in a cross fit."
"It is shameful," I said. "Aunt Hetty has been here so long that she does not know her place. I shall not be disturbed by her moods."
So, holding my head high, I put on my most dignified manner and went to the kitchen. Aunt Hetty, in a blue gingham gown, with a gay kerchief tied on her head, was slowly and pensively rocking herself back and forth in her low chair. She took no notice of me whatever.
"Aunt Hetty!" This time I spoke louder.
Still she rocked back and forth, apparently as deaf as a post. I grew desperate, and, going up to her, put my hand on her shoulder, saying:
"Aunt Hetty, aren't we to have our dinner? The fire seems to be out."
She shook off my hand and slowly rose, looking glum and preoccupied.
"Didn't hear no orders for dinner, Miss Alice."
"Now, Aunt Hetty," I remonstrated, "why will you be so horrid? You know I am the housekeeper when mother is away, and you're going to spoil everything, and make her wish she hadn't gone. How can I manage if you won't help? Come, be good," I pleaded.
But nothing moved her from her stony indifference, and I went back to grandmamma in despair. I was about to pour all my woes in her ear, but a glance at her pale face restrained me.
"We never have headaches like other people."
How many times I have heard my aunts and uncles say this in just these words! They do not think me half a Van Doren because, owing to my mother's way of bringing me up, I have escaped the family infliction. In fact, I am half a Neilson, and the Neilsons are a healthy everyday set, who do not have aches and pains, and are seldom troubled with nerves. Plebeian, perhaps, but very comfortable.
I rushed back to the den of Aunt Hetty, as I now styled the kitchen. She was pacing back and forth like a lioness in a cage at a show, singing an old plantation melody. That was a sign that her fit of temper was worse than ever. Little I cared.
"Hetty Van Doren," I said, "stop sulking and singing! There isn't time for either. Poor grandmamma has a fearful headache, and you and I will have to take care of her. Put some water on to boil, and then come up to her room and help me. And don't sing 'Go down, Moses,' another minute."
I had used two arguments which were powerful with Aunt Hetty. One was calling her Hetty Van Doren. She liked to be considered as belonging to the family, and no compliment could have pleased her more. She often said she belonged to the Kentucky noblesse, and held herself far above common trash.
The other was my saying you and I. She was vexed that mother had left me—a baby, in her opinion—to look after the house, and rather resented my assuming to be the mistress. By my happy form of speech I pleased the droll old woman, who was much like a child herself. Then, too, she was as well aware as I was that grandmamma's pain would grow worse and worse every hour until it was relieved.
It was surprising how quickly aunty moved when she chose. She had a fire made and the kettle on to boil in five minutes; and, almost before I knew it, she had set cold chicken, and nice bread and butter and a great goblet of creamy milk on the table for me.
"There, honey," she said, "don't mind dis hateful ole woman. Eat your luncheon, while I go up and help ole miss to bed."
A hot-water bag for her feet, warm bandages laid on her head, some soothing medicine which she always took, and Hetty and I at last left grandmamma more comfortable than we found her. It was funny, as I thought of it afterward. In one of her worst paroxysms the dear lady gasped, a word at a time:
Aunt Hetty looked as if she thought grandmamma must be raving. I nodded that it was all right, and up went the two black hands in expostulation and amazement.
But a while later a savory smell of boiling ham came appetizingly wafted up the stairs. I drew a free breath. I knew the girls would at least have something to eat, and my hospitality would not be shamed.
So toward evening I made grandmamma a cup of tea. It is not every one who knows how to make tea. The water must boil and bubble up. It isn't fully boiling when the steam begins to rise from the spout, but if you will wait five minutes after that it will be just right for use. Pour a very little into the teapot, rinse it, and pour the water out, and then put in your tea. No rule is better than the old one of a teaspoonful for every cup, and an extra one for the pot. Let this stand five minutes where it will not boil, and it will be done. Good tea must be steeped not boiled. Mother's way is to make hers on the table. I have been drilled over and over in tea making, and am skillful.
I made some dainty slices of toast in this way: I cut off the crust and put it aside for a pudding, and as the oven was hot, I placed the bread in a pan, and let it lean against the edge in a slanting position. When it was a pale golden brown I took it out, and carried it to grandmamma. The object of toasting bread is to get the moisture out of it. This is more evenly done in the oven than over the fire. Toast should not be burned on one side and raw on the other; it should be crisp and delicate all through.
My tea and toast were delicious, and tasted all the better for being arranged in the prettiest china we had and on our daintiest salver.
The next morning grandmamma was better, and I had my hands full.
You remember that grandmamma in the very middle of her headache gave orders about boiling the ham and the tongue.
We made a rule after that, and Veva, who was secretary, wrote it in the club's book: "Always begin getting ready for company the day before."
I had not noticed it then, but it is mother's way, and it saves a great deal of confusion. If everything is left for the day on which the company is expected, the girl who is hostess will be much too tired to enjoy her friends. She ought to have nothing on her mind which can worry her or keep her from entering into their pleasure. A hurried, worried hostess makes her guests feel somehow in a false position.
Our house was, fortunately, in excellent order, so I had nothing to do except, in the morning, to set the table prettily, to dust the parlors, to put fresh flowers in the vases, and give a dainty finishing touch here and there to the rooms. There were plenty of pleasant things to do. I meant to have tea over early, and then some of the club's brothers would be sure to come in, and we could play tennis on our ground, and perhaps have a game of croquet. Then, when it was too dark for that sort of amusement, we could gather on the veranda or in the library, and have games there—Dumb Crambo and Proverbs, until the time came for the girls to go home.
First, however, the eating part of the entertainment had to be thought of.
Aunt Hetty was in a wonderful good humor, and helped with all her might, so that my preparations went on very successfully. Grandmamma felt so much better that I asked her advice, and this was the bill of fare which she proposed:
|Cold Sliced Tongue.|
|Strawberries and Cream.|
The ham, having been boiled till tender the afternoon before, was chopped very fine, a tiny dash of mustard added to it, and then it was spread smoothly between two pieces of the thinnest possible bread-and-butter. Around each of the sandwiches, when finished, I tied a very narrow blue ribbon. The effect was pretty.
The tongue was sliced evenly, and arranged on a plate with tender leaves of lettuce around its edge.
The biscuits I made myself. Mother taught me how. First I took a quart of flour, and dropped into it two teaspoonfuls of our favorite baking-powder. This I sifted twice, so that the powder and flour were thoroughly blended. Mother says that cakes and biscuits and all kinds of pastry are nicer and lighter if the flour is sifted twice, or even three times. I added now a tablespoonful of lard and a half teaspoonful of salt, and mixed the biscuit with milk. The rule is to handle as little as possible, and have the dough very soft. Roll into a mass an inch thick, and cut the little cakes apart with a tin biscuit-cutter. They must be baked in a very hot oven.
No little housekeeper need expect to have perfect biscuits the first time she makes them. It is very much like playing the piano. One needs practice. But after she has followed this receipt a half dozen times, she will know exactly how much milk she will require for her dough, and she will have no difficulty in handling the soft mass. A dust of flour over the hands will prevent it from sticking to them.
Mother always insists that a good cook should get all her materials together before she begins her work.
The way is to think in the first place of every ingredient and utensil needed, then to set the sugar, flour, spice, salt, lard, butter, milk, eggs, cream, molasses, flavoring, sieves, spoons, egg-beaters, cups, strainers, rolling-pins, and pans, in a convenient spot, so that you do not have to stop at some important step in the process, while you go to hunt for a necessary thing which has disappeared or been forgotten.
Mother has often told me of a funny time she had when she was quite a young housekeeper, afflicted with a borrowing neighbor. This lady seldom had anything of her own at hand when it was wanted, so she depended upon the obliging disposition of her friends.
One day my mother put on her large housekeeping apron and stepped across the yard to her outdoor kitchen. The kitchens in Kentucky were never a part of the house, but always at a little distance from it, in a separate building.
"Aunt Phyllis," said my mother to the cook, who was browning coffee grains in a skillet over the fire, "I thought I told you that I was coming here to make pound cake and cream pies this morning. Why is nothing ready?"
"La, me, Miss Emmeline!" replied Aunt Phyllis. "Miss 'Tilda Jenkins done carried off every pie pan and rolling-pin and pastry-board, and borrowed all de eggs and cream fo' herself. Her bakin' isn't mo'n begun."
This was a high-handed proceeding, but nothing could be done in the case. It was Mrs. Jenkins' habit, and mother had always been so amiable about it that the servants, who were easygoing, never troubled themselves to ask the mistress, but lent the inconvenient borrower whatever she desired.
Sometimes just as we were going to church, I was too little at the time to remember, mother said that a small black boy with very white teeth and a very woolly head, would pop up at her chamber door, exclaiming,
Or, of a summer evening, her maid would appear with a modest request for Miss Emmeline's lace shawl and red satin fan; Miss 'Tilda wanted to make a call and had nothing to wear.
All this, I think, made mother perfectly set against our ever borrowing so much as a slatepencil or a pin. We were always to use our own things or go without. I never had a sister, but cousins often spent months at the house, and were in and out of my room in the freest way, forever bringing me their gloves to mend or their ties to clean, as cousins will.
"Never borrow," said my mother. "Buy, or give away, or do without, but be beholden to nobody for a loan."
Another rule for little housekeepers is to wash their hands and faces and have their hair in the nicest order before they begin to cook. The nails should be cleaned and the toilet attended to as carefully as if the girl were going to a party, before she begins any work in the kitchen.
I suppose you think my bill of fare for a company tea very plain, but I hadn't time for anything elaborate. Besides, if what you have is very good, and set on the table prettily, most people will be satisfied even if the fare is simple.
But Amy did eat apple-sauce at our house. Aunt Hetty taught me how to make it, and I think it very good. We always cook it in an earthenware crock over a very quick fire. This is our receipt: Pare and slice the apples, eight large ones are sufficient for a generous dish, and put them on with a very little water. As soon as they are soft and pulpy stir in enough granulated sugar to make them as sweet as your father and brothers like them. Take them off and strain them through a fine sieve into a glass dish. Cook the apple-sauce about two hours before it is wanted on the table. Put beside it a bowl of whipped cream, and when you help to the sauce add a heaping spoonful of the cream to every dish.
People spoil apple-sauce by making it carelessly, so that it is lumpy and coarse, or has seeds or bits of the core sticking in it, and mother says that both apple-pies and apple-sauce should be used the day they are made. They lose their bouquet, the fine delicate flavor is all gone if you keep them long before using. A great divine used to say that "the natural life of an apple pie is just twelve hours."
Tapioca Blanc-Mange.—This is the receipt: One pint of fresh milk, three-quarters of a cupful of sugar, half a pound of tapioca soaked in cold water four hours, a small teaspoonful of vanilla, a pinch of salt. Heat the milk and stir in the tapioca previously soaked. Mix well and add the sugar. Boil it slowly fifteen minutes, then take it off and beat until nearly cold. Pour into moulds, and stand upon the ice.
This is very nice served with a teaspoonful of currant or raspberry jelly to each helping, and if cream is added it makes a beautiful dessert. This ought to be made the day before it is needed. I made mine before noon and it was quite ready, but you see it tired me to have it on my mind, and it might have been a failure.
Cup-Cake.—Three teacups of sifted sugar and one cup and a half of butter beaten to a cream, three eggs well beaten (white and yolks separately), three teacupfuls of sifted flour. Flavor with essence of lemon or rose water. A half teaspoonful is enough. Dissolve a teaspoonful of cream of tartar and a half teaspoonful of baking soda in a very little milk. When they foam, stir them quickly into the cake. Beat well until the mixture is perfectly smooth, and has tiny bubbles here and there on the surface. Bake in a very quick oven.
Cookies.—These were in the house. We always keep a good supply. One cup of butter, one of sugar, one of sour milk, half a nutmeg grated, one teaspoonful of saleratus dissolved in a little boiling water, flour enough to roll out the cookies. Cut into small round cakes and bake. Keep these in a close tin. They will last a long time unless the house is supplied with hungry school-boys.
Cocoa.—Two ounces of cocoa and one quart of boiling water. Boil together for a half hour on the back of the stove, then add a quart of milk and two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Boil for ten minutes and serve.
Everything on the table was enjoyed, and we girls had a very merry time. After tea and before the brothers came, we arranged a plan for learning to make bread. I forgot to speak of the strawberries, but good strawberries and rich cream need no directions. A pretty way of serving them for breakfast, or for people who prefer them without cream, is simply to arrange the beautiful fruit unhulled on a cut glass dish, and dip each berry by its dainty stem into a little sparkling mound of powdered sugar.
As for our games, our talk, our royally good time, girls will understand this without my describing it. As Veva said, you can't put the soul of a good time down on the club's record book, and I find I can't put it down here in black and white. But when we said good-night, each girl felt perfectly satisfied with the day, and the brothers pleaded for many more such evenings.
"It's very well," said Miss Clem Downing, Marjorie's sister, "for you little housekeepers to make cakes and creams; anybody can do that; but you'll never be housekeepers in earnest, little or big, my dears, till you can make good eatable bread."
"Bread," said Mr. Pierce to Amy, "is the crowning test of housewifery. A lady is a loaf-giver, don't you know?"
"When Jeanie shall present me with a perfect loaf of bread, I'll present her with a five-dollar gold piece," said Jeanie's father.
"I don't want Veva meddling in the kitchen," observed Mrs. Fay, with emphasis. "The maids are vexatious enough, and the cook cross enough as it is. If ever Veva learns breadmaking, it must be outside of this house."
"Don't bother me, daughter," said Mrs. Partridge, looking up from the cup she was painting. "It will be time for you to learn breadmaking when the bakers shut their shops."
As for the writer of this story, her mother's way had been to teach her breadmaking when she was just tall enough to have a tiny moulding-board on a chair, but Milly did not feel qualified to take hold of a regular cooking class. It was the same with Linda Curtis. Grandmamma suggested our having a teacher, and paying her for her trouble.
"Miss Muffet?" said Veva.
"Miss Muffet," we all exclaimed.
"And then," said Jeanie, "our money will enable her to buy the winter cloak she is so much in need of, and she will not feel as if she were accepting charity, because she will earn the money if she teaches us."
"Indeed, she will," exclaimed Veva. "I know beforehand that she will have one fearfully stupid pupil, and that is Veva Fay."
Breakfast was no sooner over next morning, and grandmamma dressed and settled in comfort, than away we flew to our friend. "We," means Linda and myself. She is my nearest neighbor, and we often act for the club.
Miss Muffet lived by herself in a bit of a house, her only companions being a very deaf sister and a very noisy parrot.
"Passel o' girls! Passel o' girls!" screamed the parrot, as we lifted the latch and walked up the little bricked pathway, bordered with lady-slippers and prince's feather, to the porch, which was half hidden by clematis.
Miss Muffet was known to every man, woman and child in Bloomdale. She was sent for on every extra occasion, and at weddings, christenings and funerals, when there was more work than usual to be done, the little brisk woman, so quiet and so capable, was always on hand. She could do a little of everything, from seating Tommy's trousers to setting patches in Ellen's sleeves; from making lambrequins and table scarfs to laundrying lace curtains and upholstering furniture. As for cooking, preserving and canning, she was celebrated for miles around and beyond our township.
"Would Miss Muffet undertake to show a few girls how to make bread and rolls and biscuit and sally-lunn, and have patience with them till they were perfect little housekeepers, so far as bread was concerned."
It was some little time before we could make Miss Muffet understand our plan, and persuade her to let us pay for our lessons; but when she did understand, she entered into the plan with enthusiasm.
"La me! What a clever notion to be sure! Sister Jane, poor dear, would approve of it highly, if she weren't so deaf. Begin to-day? Well, well! You don't want the grass to grow under your feet, do you? All right! I'll be at your house, Milly, at six o'clock this evening to give the first lesson. Have the girls there, if you can. It's as easy to teach a dozen as one."
"We all have white aprons," I said.
"Yes; ordinary aprons, but not great kitchen aprons to cover us up from head to foot."
"Well, if the club adopts the plan it will not be hard to make such aprons. We must certainly have caps, and those should be thought of at once."
Grandmamma was always my resort when I was at my wits' end, and so I went to her with a question: "Had she anything which would do for our caps?"
"There must be something in my lower left-hand wardrobe drawer," said grandmamma, considering. "Thee may bring me a green bag, which thee will see in the far corner, and then we will talk about those caps in earnest."
That wonderful green bag proved a sort of fairy find. There were remnants of mull, Swiss, jaconet and other fabrics—white, plain and barred. Grandmamma cut us a pattern. At four the seven girls were assembled in her room. Jeanie on a hassock at her feet, the remainder grouped as they chose.
How our fingers flew! It was just a quarter to six when every cap was finished, and each girl had decided upon her special color. We hadn't the ribbon to make our bows, and were obliged to wait till somebody should go to the city to procure it; but each girl knew her favorite color, and that was a comfort. Linda Curtis chose blue, and I would wear rose-tints (my parents did not insist on my wearing Quaker gray, and I dressed like "the world's people"), Veva chose old gold, and each of the others had a preference.
"You will look like a field of daisies and clover, dearies," said grandmamma.
"There!" cried Jeanie. "Why not have a four-leaved clover as our badge? There isn't anything prettier."
The four-leaved clover carried the day, though one or two did speak for the daisy, the maiden-hair fern and the pussy willow. All this was before the subject of the national flower had been agitated.
"Where are my pupils?" Miss Muffet appeared promptly at the hour, and wore a most business-like air as she began her instructions. "Compressed yeast has found its way to Bloomdale, my dears," she said, "so that I shall not have to begin by telling you how to make yeast. That useful lesson may wait till another day. Before we do anything, I will give you some rules for good family bread, and you may write them down, if you please.
"1. Always sift your flour thoroughly."
"2. Mix the dough as soft as it can be handled. You must never have it too stiff.
"3. Set it to rise in a moderately warm place.
"4. You cannot knead bread too much. The more it is kneaded the firmer, sweeter and lighter it will be."
When we had written this down Miss Muffet remarked:
"Mrs. Deacon Ead's bread always takes the prize at the county fair. It looks like pound-cake. I don't want you girls to make flabby, porous bread, full of air-holes. I want you to learn how to knead it till it is just like an India-rubber cushion."
"If the dough is soft won't it stick to our fingers?" said Marjorie, with a dainty little shiver.
"Powder your hands very lightly with flour. That will keep the dough from sticking," said Miss Muffet, "and you will gain a knack after a while.
"5. The oven must be steadily hot, but not too quick, for bread. Hold your hand in it while you count thirty, and it will be right for putting in your bread.
"6. Grease your pans.
"8. Do not put them away until they are cold."
We all gathered about the table, but were disappointed that there was nothing for us to do except look on.
She took two quarts of flour and sifted it thoroughly into a large wooden bowl. In one pint of tepid water she dissolved a half-tablespoonful of salt and half a yeast cake. Pouring this into a hollow in the middle of the flour she gradually drew the flour into it from all sides, working it with swift, light touches until it was a compact mass. She pounced and pulled and beat this till it was as smooth and round as a ball, dusted a little flour over it, covered it with a thick cloth and set it aside.
"That is all that can be done to-night, girls," she said. "Be here every one of you at six in the morning, if Milly can be up so early. The bread will be ready then for another kneading. You must not overlook the fact, girls, that bread is not accommodating. It has to be attended to when the proper time comes, whether it is convenient for the maker or not. If neglected, it will be too light, or else heavy. Bread which is too light has a sour taste, and is just as unpalatable as that which is heavy, i.e., not raised enough, I mean."
In the morning our bread had risen to the top of the bowl, and had cracks running in a criss-cross manner over its surface. Miss Muffet was the first one to appear on the scene. She gave us a lesson in kneading. Such patting and pounding, throwing over, tossing back and forth, as she gave that poor dough. But the dough must have enjoyed it, for it seemed to grow lighter every minute.
After a full twenty minutes of this process the bread was set near the fire for a second rising. A half-hour passed. Miss Muffet took it in hand again, and again she pounced and patted, beat and pounded the helpless mass, this time dividing it into three small loaves, which she set near the fire for the final rising.
"Bread is nicer made in little loaves," she told us. "More convenient for use on the table, easier to bake, and less likely to become dry."
And now let me give you a receipt for Ingleside waffles. Mother considers these very good, and so do we girls who have tried them.
"Make one pint of Indian meal into mush the usual way, which is by stirring the meal into boiling water and letting it boil until it is thick. While hot put in a small lump of butter and a dessertspoonful of salt. Set the mush aside to cool. Beat separately the whites and yolks of four eggs until very light; add the eggs to the mush, and cream in by degrees one quart of wheat flour; add half a pint of buttermilk or sour cream, in which you have dissolved a half-teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda; add sweet milk enough to make a thin batter.
"Have the waffle-irons hot. They should be heated in advance, not to keep the batter waiting. Butter them thoroughly and half fill them with the batter. Bake over a quick fire."
I never eat waffles without thinking of a pleasant home where two girls and a boy who read this paper have good times every summer. They often go out on the bay for an afternoon sail, and come home in the rosy sunset in time for waffles. Waffles, with sugar and cream, are a very nice addition to a supper table.
Another receipt of Miss Muffet's:
Delicious Corn Muffins.—One pint of corn meal sifted, one egg, one pint of sweet milk, a teaspoonful of butter, and half a teaspoonful of salt. Pour this mixture into muffin-rings and bake in a very quick oven.
This receipt is one that mother sometimes uses on a cold winter evening when she has nothing else hot for supper. They are great favorites in our household.
In the first chapter of this story I spoke of the trouble housekeepers in Bloomdale had to get and keep good servants.
We Clover Leaf girls made up our minds that we would learn to be independent. We resolved to know how to do every sort of housework, so that we might assist our mothers whenever they needed us, and be ready for any emergency as it came along.
Aunt Hetty's daughter-in-law in Boston sent the poor old soul a letter which made her rather uneasy, and grandmamma thought that I might better let her go and pay Sally a visit while mother was away than to wait till her return.
"The fall dressmaking and cleaning will be coming on then," said grandmother, "and thee will be busy with school again. So if Hetty takes her vacation now, she will be here to help the dear mother then."
I agreed to this, for the chance of having the kitchen to myself was very tempting. The club was charmed; they said they would just live at our house and help me with all their might.
"Then you won't have Hetty's moods to worry you," said Veva, consolingly.
We had a good time. Nevertheless it was a happy day for me when Aunt Hetty, bag and baggage, came home a week sooner than she was expected. Nobody was looking for her; but the good old soul, having seen her relations, felt restless, and wanted to get home.
"Somefin done tole me, honey," she said, "that Aunt Hetty am wanted hyar, and sure enuf it's so. Yo' pa an' ma off on dey trabbles, and nobody but one pore lamb lef' to take car' ob de house an' de ole madam. I wouldn't hab gone only for dat no-account Sal anyhow."
I felt like a bird set free from a cage when Aunt Hetty appeared, and she came in the very nick of time, too, for that same day up rolled the stage, and out popped my great-aunt Jessamine (grandmamma's sister) from Philadelphia. The two old ladies had so much to tell one another that they had no need of me. So I went to the Downings', where the club was to hold a meeting, armed with brushes and brooms, taking a practical lesson in sweeping and dusting.
The Downings were without a maid, and we all turned in to help them. Alice, Nell, and Clem, the older sisters, accepted our offer joyfully, though I think their mother had doubts of the wisdom of setting so many of us loose in her house at once. But Linda Curtis and Jeanie Cartwright found that they were not needed and went home; Veva had a music lesson and was excused; Linda's mamma had taken her off on a jaunt for the day; and Amy could not be spared from home. Only Lois and I were left to help Marjorie, and, on the principle that many hands make light work, we distributed ourselves about the house under the direction of the elder Downing sisters.
Now, girls all, let me give you a hint which may save you lots of time and trouble. If sweeping and dusting are thoroughly done, they do not need to be done so very often. A room once put in perfect order, especially in a country village, where the houses stand like little islands in a sea of green grass, ought to stay clean a long time.
It is very different in a city, where the dust flies in clouds an hour after a shower, and where the carts and wagons are constantly stirring it up. Give me the sweet, clean country.
Mother's way is to carefully dust and wipe first with a damp and then with a dry cloth all the little articles of bric-a-brac, vases, small pictures, and curios, which we prize because they are pretty, after which she sets them in a closet or drawer quite out of the way. Then, with a soft cloth fastened over the broom, she has the walls wiped down, and with a hair brush which comes for the purpose she removes every speck of dust and cobweb from the cornices and corners. A knitted cover of soft lampwick over a broom is excellent for wiping a dusty or a papered wall.
Next, all curtains which cannot be conveniently taken down are shaken well and pinned up out of the way. Shades are rolled to the top. Every chair and table is dusted, and carried out of the room which is about to be swept. If there are books, they are dusted and removed, or if they are arranged on open shelves, they are first dusted and then carefully covered.
Mother's way is to keep a number of covers of old calico, for the purpose of saving large pieces of furniture, shelves and such things, which cannot be removed from their places on sweeping days.
It is easier, she says, to protect these articles than to remove the dust when it has once lodged in carvings and mouldings.
We girls made a frolic of our dusting, but we did it beautifully too. I suppose you have all noticed what a difference it makes in work whether you go at it cheerfully or go at it as a task that you hate. If you keep thinking how hard it is, and wishing you had somebody else to do it for you, and fretting and fuming, and pitying yourself, you are sure to have a horrid time. But if you take hold of a thing in earnest and call it fun, you don't get half so tired.
"Milly," said Lois, "do you honestly think sweeping is harder exercise than playing tennis or golf?"
I hesitated. "I really don't know. One never thinks of hard or easy in any games out of doors; the air is so invigorating, they have a great advantage over house work in that way."
"Well, for my part," said Marjorie, "I like doing work that tells. There is so much satisfaction in seeing the figures in the carpet come out brightly under my broom. Alice, what did you do to make your reception-room so perfectly splendiferous? Girls, look here! You'd think this carpet had just come out of the warehouse."
"Mother often tells Aunt Hetty," said I, "to dip the end of the broom in a pail of water in which she has poured a little ammonia—a teaspoonful to a gallon. The ammonia takes off the dust, and refreshes the colors wonderfully. We couldn't keep house without it," I finished, rather proudly.
"Did you bring some from home?" asked Marjorie, looking hurt.
"Why, of course not! I asked your mother, and she gave me the bottle, and told me to take what I wanted."
"A little coarse salt or some damp tea-leaves strewed over a carpet before sweeping adds ease to the cleansing process," said Mrs. Downing, appearing on the scene and praising us for our thoroughness. "The reason is that both the salt and the tea-leaves being moist keep down the light floating dust, which gives more trouble than the heavier dirt. But now you will all be better for a short rest; so come into my snuggery, and have a gossip and a lunch, and then you may attack the enemy again."
"Mrs. Downing, you are a darling," exclaimed Lois, as we saw a platter of delicate sandwiches, and another of crisp ginger cookies, with a great pitcher of milk. "We didn't know that we were hungry; but now that I think about it, I, for one, am certain that I could not have lived much longer without something to supply the waste of my failing cellular tissue."
"I think," replied Mrs. Downing, "that we would often feel much better for stopping in our day's work to take a little rest. I often pause in the middle of my morning's work and lie down for a half-hour, or I send to the kitchen and have a glass of hot milk brought me, with a crust or a cracker. You girls would not wish to lie down, but you would often find that you felt much fresher if you just stopped and rested, or put on your jackets and hats and ran away for a breath of out-door air. You would come back to your work like new beings."
"Precisely. Change of employment is the best tonic."
Our luncheon over, and our rooms swept, rugs shaken, stairs and passages thoroughly brushed and wiped, we polished the windows with cloths dipped in ammonia water and wrung out, and followed them by a dry rubbing with soft linen cloths. Then it was time to restore the furniture to its place, and bring out the ornaments again from their seclusion.
Now we saw what an advantage we had gained in having prepared these before we began the campaign. In a very little while the work was done and the house settled, and so spotless and speckless we felt sure it would keep clean for weeks.
Mother's way is to use a patent sweeper daily in rooms which are occupied for sewing and other work, and she says that she does not find it necessary to give her rooms more than a light sweeping oftener than once in six weeks. Of course it would be different if we had a large family.
Paint should be wiped, door-knobs polished, and a touch of the duster given to everything on these sweeping days.
The Clover Leaves voted that feather-dusters, as a rule, were a delusion. One often sees a girl, who looks very complacent as she flirts a feather-duster over a parlor, displacing the dust so that it may settle somewhere else. All dusted articles should be wiped off, and the dust itself gotten rid of, by taking it out of the house, and leaving it no chance to get back on that day at least.
When I reached home in time for our one o'clock dinner, I found Great-aunt Jessamine and grandmamma both waiting for me, and the former, who was a jolly little old lady, was quite delighted over the Bloomdale girls and their housekeeping.
"All is," she said, "will those Downings do as well when there are no other girls to make them think the work is play?"
"Oh!" answered grandmamma, "I never trouble my head about what folks will do in the future. I have enough to do looking after what they do in the present. Alice here gets along very well all by herself a great part of the time. By-the-way, child, did Aunt Hetty give thee mother's letter?"
I rushed off to get my treasure. It would soon be the blessed day when I might expect a letter telling me when my father and mother would be at home again.
Just as I began to be a wee little bit tired of housework, and to feel that I would like nothing so much as a day with my birds, my fancy-work, and a charming story-book, what should happen but that grandmamma's headache and Aunt Hetty's "misery in her bones" should both come at once.
Tap, tap, tap on the floor above my head in the early dawn came grandmamma's ebony stick.
Veva Fay and Marjorie Downing were both spending the night with me. Veva had slept on the wide, old-fashioned lounge in the corner, and Marjorie in the broad couch with me, and we had all talked till it was very late, as girls always do when they sleep in one room, unless, of course, they are sisters, or at school, and used to it.
I had a beautiful room. It ran half across the front of the house, and had four great windows, a big fire-place, filled in summer with branches of cedar, or bunches of ferns, growing in a low box, and filling the great space with cool green shade, and in winter the delight of the girls, because of the famous hickory fires which blazed there, always ready to light at a touch.
In one corner stood my mahogany desk, above it a lovely picture of the Madonna and Child. Easy-chairs were standing around, and there were hassocks and ottomans in corners and beside the windows. My favorite engraving—a picture representing two children straying near a precipice, fearing no danger, and just ready to fall, when behind them, sweeping softly down, comes their guardian angel—hung over the mantel.
How much pleasure I took in that room, in the book shelves always full, in the pretty rugs and the cool matting and the dainty drapery, all girls can imagine. It was my own Snuggery, and I kept it in the loveliest good order, as mother liked me to.
Tap, tap, tap.
"Goodness!" cried Veva, only half awake.
"What is that? Mice?" said Marjorie, timidly.
"Burglars!" exclaimed Veva.
"Hush, girls!" I said, shaking off my drowsiness. "It's poor grandmamma, and she has one of her fearfulest headaches. It's two weeks since she had the last, so one may be expected about now. The tap means, 'Come to me, quickly.'"
I ran to the door, and said, "Coming, grandmamma!" slipped my feet into my soft knitted shoes, and hurried my gray flannel wrapper on, then hastened to her bedside. I found that grandmamma was not so very ill, only felt unable to get up to breakfast with us, and wanted some gruel made as soon as possible.
"I've been waiting to hear some stir in the house," she said, "but nobody seemed to be awake. Isn't it later than usual, girlie?"
I tiptoed over to grandmamma's mantel, and looked at her little French clock. It was late! Eight, and past, and Hetty had not called us. What could be the matter?
Down I flew to find out what ailed Aunt Hetty. She was usually an early riser.
Before I reached her room, which was on the same floor with the kitchen, I heard groans issuing from it, and Hetty's voice saying: "Dear me! Oh, dear me!" in the most despairing, agonizing tones. Hetty always makes the most of a "misery in her bones."
"What is it, aunty?" I asked, peering into the room, which she would keep as dark as a pocket.
"De misery in my bones, child! De ole king chills! Sometimes I'm up! Sometimes I'm down!"
The bed shook under the poor thing, and I ran out to ask Patrick to go for the doctor, while I made the fire, and called the girls to help prepare breakfast.
A tablespoonful of corn meal wet with six tablespoonfuls of milk, added one by one, gradually, so that the meal is quite free from lumps. One pint of boiling water, and a little salt. You must stir the smooth mixture of the meal and milk into the boiling water. It will cool it a little, and you must stir it until it comes to a boil, then stand it back, and let it simmer fifteen minutes.
The doctor was caught by Patrick just leaving his house to go to a patient ten miles off. He prescribed for Aunt Hetty, looked in upon grandmamma, and told me to keep up my courage, I was a capital little nurse, and he would rather have me to take care of him than anybody else he knew, if he were ill, which he never was.
He drove off in his old buggy, leaving three little maids watching him with admiring eyes. We all loved Doctor Chester. "Now, girls," I said, "we must get our breakfast. We cannot live on air."
Marjorie brought the eggs and milk. Veva cut the bread and picked the blackberries. I put the pan on to heat for the omelette, and this is the way we made it:
Three eggs, broken separately and beaten hard—
hummed Marjorie, add a teaspoonful of milk, and beat up with the eggs; beat until the very last moment when you pour into the pan, in which you have dropped a bit of butter, over the hot fire. As soon as it sets, move the pan to a cooler part of the stove, and slip a knife under the edge to prevent its sticking to the pan; when it is almost firm in the middle, slant the pan a little, slip your knife all the way round the edge to get it free, then tip it over in such a way that it will fold as it falls on the plate.
You should serve an omelette on a hot plate, and it requires a little dexterity to learn how to take it out neatly.
Veva exclaimed, "Oh, Milly, you forgot the salt!"
"No," I explained; "French cooks declare that salt should never be mixed with eggs when they are prepared for omelette. It makes the omelette tough and leathery. A little salt, however, may be sprinkled upon it just before it is turned out upon the dish."
Here is another receipt, which Jeanie copied out of her mother's book:
"Six eggs beaten separately, a cup of milk, a teaspoonful of corn-starch mixed smoothly in a little of the milk, a tablespoonful of melted butter, a dash of pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Beat well together, the yolks of the eggs only being used in this mixture. When thoroughly beaten add the foaming whites and set in a very quick oven."
It will rise up as light as a golden puff ball, but it must not be used in a family who have a habit of coming late to breakfast, because, if allowed to stand, this particular omelette grows presently as flat as a flounder.
After breakfast came the task of washing the dishes. Is there anything which girls detest as they do this everyday work? Every day? Three times a day, at least, it must be done in most houses, and somebody must do it.
Veva said: "I'd like to throw the dishes away after every meal. If a fairy would offer me three wishes the first one I'd make would be never to touch a dishcloth again so long as I lived."
"Oh, Veva!" exclaimed Marjorie. "Think of the lovely china the Enderbys have, and the glass which came to Mrs. Curtis from her great-grandmother. Would you like a piece of that to be broken if it were yours?"
"No-o-o!" acknowledged Veva. "But our dishes are not so sacred, and our Bridgets break them regularly. We are always having to buy new ones as it is. Mamma groans, and sister Constance sighs, and Aunt Ernie scolds, but the dishes go."
"Mother thinks that the old-fashioned gentlewomen, who used to wash the breakfast things themselves, were very sensible and womanly."
Eva shrugged her plump shoulders, but took a towel to wipe the silver. I had gathered up the dishes, and taken my own way of going about this piece of work.
First I took a pan of hot water in which I had dissolved a bit of soap, and I attacked the disagreeable things—the saucepans and broilers and pots and pans. They are very useful, but they are not ornamental. All nice housekeepers are very particular to cleanse them thoroughly, removing every speck of grease from both the outside and the inside, and drying them until they shine.
It isn't worth while to ruin your hands or make them coarse and rough when washing pots and pans. I use a mop, and do not put my hands into the hot, greasy water. Mother says one may do housework and look like a lady if she has common sense.
I finished the pots and pans and set my cups and saucers in a row, my plates scraped and piled together, my silver in the large china bowl, and my glasses were all ready for the next step. I had two pans, one half-filled with soapy, the other with clear water, and having given my dainty dishes a bath in the first I treated them to a dip in the second, afterward letting them drain for a moment on the tray at my right hand. Veva and Marjorie wiped the silver and glass with the soft linen towels which are kept for these only; next I took my plates, then the platters, and finally the knives. Just as we finished the last dish I heard grandmother's tap, tap on the floor over my head.
There's an art in everything, even in washing dishes. I fancy one might grow fond of it, if only one took an interest in always doing it well.
Perhaps it is because my parents are Friends, and I have been taught that it is foolish to be flurried and flustered and to hurry over any work, but I do think that one gets along much faster when one does not make too much haste.
I do hope I may always act just as mother does, she is so sweet and peaceful, never cross, never worried. Now, dear grandmamma is much more easily vexed. But then she is older and she has the Van Doren headaches.
Tap, tap came the call of the ebony stick. I ran up to grandmamma's room.
Of all things in the world, what should grandmamma propose but my sending for Miss Muffet! Great-aunt Jessamine had gone away long before.
"I believe it was to-day that the girls meant to have the candy pull at Jeanie's, wasn't it?" grandmamma asked.
"Yes, darling grandmamma," I said, "they may have it; but I am not going to desert you."
"Thee is very kind, dearie," replied grandmamma; "but I need only quiet, and Hetty will come out of her attack just as well without thee as with thee. I particularly wish that thee would go. How is thee to have the fair unless thee has the candy pull? The time is passing, too. It will soon be school and lessons again."
So, at grandmamma's urging, I went for Miss Muffet. The little woman came without much delay, and took hold, as she expressed it, looking after both our invalids; and in the meantime telling me how to broil a steak for my grandmamma's and our own dinner, and how to fry potatoes so that they should not be soaked with grease.
For broiling you need a thick steak, a clear fire, and a clean gridiron. Never try to broil meat over a blaze. You must have a bed of coals, with a steady heat. The steak must not be salted until you have turned each side to the fire; and it must be turned a good many times and cooked evenly. It will take from five to seven minutes to broil it properly, and it will then have all the juices in, and be fit for a king.
I don't know that kings have any better food than other gentlemen, but one always supposes that they will have the very best.
A steak may be cooked very appetizingly in the frying pan; but the pan must be very hot, and have no grease in it. Enough of that will ooze from the fat of the steak to keep it from sticking fast. A good steak cooked in a cold frying-pan and simmering in grease is an abomination. So declares Miss Muffet, and all epicures with her.
To fry potatoes or croquettes or any other thing well, one must have plenty of lard or butter or beef drippings, as she prefers, and let it boil. It should bubble up in the saucepan, and there should be enough of it to cover the wire basket in which the delicately sliced potatoes are laid—a few at time—to cook. They will not absorb fat, because the heat, when the first touch of it is given, will form a tight skin over them, and the grease cannot pierce this. They will be daintily brown, firm and dry.
But this isn't telling of our candy pull.
We had set our hearts on having fun and doing good—killing two birds with one stone, as Al Fay said. But I do not approve of that proverb, for certainly no girl ever wishes to kill a bird; no more does a decent boy think of such a thing.
We resolved to have a fair and to sell candy at it, making every bit ourselves.
Therefore we had sent out some invitations to girls not of the club, and to some of the nicest boys. They were as follows:
The Clover Leaf Club of Bloomdale requests the pleasure of your company at the house of Miss Jeanie Cartwright, on Friday evening, September 8, at eight o'clock. Candy pull.
I had my doubts all day as to whether it would be right for me to go; but about four o'clock Aunt Hetty, looking as well as ever, came out of her room in a stiffly starched gingham gown, and proceeded to cook for herself a rasher of bacon and some eggs. Grandmamma was up and reading one of her favorite books; and Miss Muffett, who had stepped over to her house to attend to her sister and the parrot, came back declaring her intention to stay all night.
"So, my darling child, you may go, and welcome."
Away went my doubts and fears, and I tripped merrily down the street to Jeanie's, feeling the happier for a letter from mother, which I found at the post office.
Our candy was to be sold for a cent a stick, but the sticks were not scanty little snips by any means. Mrs. Cartwright made us a present of the molasses, Lois brought the sugar from home, Al Fay brought the saleratus, Patty remembered about the vinegar, and Marjorie produced the butter.
These were the ingredients: a half-gallon of New Orleans molasses, a cup of vinegar, a piece of butter as large as two eggs, a good teaspoonful of saleratus dissolved in hot water.
We melted the sugar in the vinegar, stirred it into the molasses, and let it come to the boil, stirring steadily. The boys took turns at this work.
When the syrup began to thicken we dropped in the saleratus, which makes it clear; then flouring our hands, each took a position, and pulled it till it was white.
The longer we pulled, the whiter it grew. We ate some of it, but we girls were quite firm in saving half for our sale.
Then we made maple-sugar caramels. Have you ever tried them? They are splendid. You must have maple sugar to begin with; real sugar from the trees in Vermont if you can get it. You will need a deep saucepan. Then into a quart of fresh sweet milk break two pounds of sugar. Set it over the fire. As the sugar melts, it will expand. Boil, boil, boil, stir, stir, stir. Never mind if your face grows hot. One cannot make candy sitting in a rocking-chair with a fan. One doesn't calculate to, as Great-aunt Jessamine always says.
The way to test it when you think it is done is to drop a portion in cold water. If brittle enough to break, it is done. Pour into square buttered pans, and mark off while soft into little squares with a knife.
Some people like cream candy. It is made in this way: three large cupfuls of loaf-sugar, six tablespoonfuls of water. Boil, without stirring, in a bright tin pan until it will crisp in water like molasses candy. Flavor it with essence of lemon or vanilla; just before it is done, add one teaspoonful of cream of tartar. Powder your hands with flour, and pull it until it is perfectly white.
Plain Caramels.—One pound of brown sugar, a quarter of a pound of chocolate, one pint of cream, one teaspoonful of butter, two tablespoonfuls of molasses. Boil for thirty minutes, stirring all the time; test by dropping into cold water. Flavor with vanilla, and mark off as you do the maple caramels.
Home-made candy is sure to be of good materials, and will seldom be harmful unless the eater takes a great quantity. Then the pleasure of making it counts for something.
Our little fair was held the day after the candy pull, and the boys put up a tent for us in Colonel Fay's grounds. Admission to the tent was five cents. We sold candy, cake, ice-cream, and—home-made bread, and our gains were nineteen dollars and ten cents. There were an apron table, and a table where we sold pin-cushions and pen-wipers; but our real profits came from the bread, which the girls' fathers were so proud of that they bought it at a dollar a loaf. With the money which came from the fair, we sent two little girls, Dot and Dimpsie, our poorest children in Bloomdale, where most people were quite comfortably off, to the seaside for three whole weeks.
I do not know what we would have done in Bloomdale if Dot and Dimpsie had not had a father who would rather go off fishing, or lounge in the sun telling stories, than support his family. Everybody disapproved of Jack Roper, but everybody liked his patient little wife and his two dear little girls, and we all helped them on.
There was no excuse for Jack. He was a tall, strong man, a good hunter, fisher and climber, a sailor whenever he could get the chance to go off on a cruise; but he would not work steadily. He did not drink, or swear, or abuse his wife; but he did not support her, and if people called him Shiftless Jack, he only laughed.
As he was the only person in Bloomdale who behaved in this way, we did what mother calls condoning his offences—we called on him for odd jobs of repairing and for errands and extra work, such as lighting fires and carrying coals in winter, shoveling snow and breaking paths, weeding gardens in summer, and gathering apples in the fall. We girls determined to take care of Dot and Dimpsie, and help Mrs. Roper along.
They were two dear little things, and Mrs. Roper was very glad of our assistance.
Mother's way in one particular is different from that of some other people. Veva Fay and Lois Partridge never have any money of their own. They always ask their parents for what they want. If Lois' papa is in a happy frame of mind, he will give her a five-dollar gold piece, and say: "There, go along, little girl, and buy as many bonbons as you please. When that's gone, you know where to come for more."
If he happens to be tired, or if something in the city has gone wrong that day, he will very likely meet her modest request with a "Don't bother me, child! I won't encourage your growing up in foolish extravagance."
Veva's father and mother make such a pet of her that they cannot bear to deny her anything, and she will often order pretty things when she goes to town, and is out walking with her cousins, just because they are pretty, and not because she has any real use for them. If there were any beggars here, Veva would empty that little silken purse of hers every time she saw them, but the club has forbidden her to spoil Dot and Dimpsie in that way. And she is too much of a lady to outshine the rest of us.
Mother and father both believe in keeping an exact account of expenses. Money is a great trust, and we must use it with care. Economy, which some people suppose to be another name for saving, is a beautiful picture word which signifies to guide the house. Mother thinks economy cannot be learned in a day. So when I was little she began by giving me ten cents every Saturday morning. At the same time she put in my hand a little book and a pencil.
"See, daughter," she said, "thee is to set thy ten cents down on one page, and that will show how much thee has to spend. On the other thee is to put down the penny given in church, the penny for taffy, for fines."
For fines? What could she mean?
Well, perhaps you will laugh; but my mother's way is never to let a child in her care use slang, or slam doors, or leave things lying about in wrong places, or speak unkindly of the absent. Half a cent had to be paid every time I did any of these things, and I kept my own account of them, and punished myself. I always knew when I had violated one of mother's golden rules by her grieved look, or father's surprised one, or by a little prick from my conscience.
"And what was done with the fines?" asked Jeanie, when I told her of this plan.
"Oh, they went into our hospital fund, and twice a year—at midsummer and Christmas—they were sent away to help some good Sisters who spent their lives in looking after poor little cripples, or blind children, or who went about in tenements to care for the old and sick."
At every week's end I had to bring my book to mother, add up what I had spent, and subtract the amount from my original sum. If both were the same, it was all right. If I had spent less than I received last Saturday, then there was a balance in my favor, and something was there all ready to add to my new ten cents. But if I had gone into debt, or fallen short, or borrowed from anybody, mother was much displeased.
As I grew older my allowance was increased, until now I buy my gowns and hats, give presents out of my own money, and have a little sum in the savings-bank.
My housekeeping account while mother was absent was quite separate from any other of my own. Mother handed me the housekeeping books and the housekeeping money, with the keys, and left me responsible.
"Thee knows, Milly love," she said, "that I never have bills. I pay everybody each week. Thee must do the same. And always put down the day's expenses at the end of the day. Then nothing will be forgotten."
At the close of the year mother knows where every penny of hers has gone. Even to the value of a postage-stamp or a postal-card.
As the Clover Leaf Club girls were not all so fortunate as I in having an allowance, they took less interest in learning how to shop.
There are two ways of shopping. One is to set out without a very definite idea of what you wish to buy, and to buy what you do not want, if the shopman persuades you to do so, or it pleases your fancy.
The other is to make a list of articles before you leave home, something like this: Nine yards of merino for gown; three yards of silesia; two spools of cotton, Nos. 30 and 50; one spool of twist; one dozen crochet buttons; a dozen fine napkins and a lunch cloth; five yards of blue ribbon one inch wide; a paper of pins; a bottle of perfumery; five-eighths of a yard of ruching for the neck.
Provided with such a memorandum, the person who has her shopping to do will save time by dividing her articles into classes. The linen goods will probably be near together in the shop, and she will buy them first; then going to the counters where dress goods are kept, she will choose her gown and whatever belongs to it; the thread, pins, twist and other little articles will come next; and last, her ruching and ribbon.
She will have accomplished without any trouble, fuss, or loss of temper what would have wearied an unsystematic girl who has never learned how to shop.
Then, before she set out, she would have known very nearly how much she could afford to spend—that is, she would have known if my mother's way had been her mother's—and on no account would she have spent more than she had allowed herself in thinking it over at home.
When the club undertook charge of all Dot's and Dimpsie's expenses, it was rather a puzzle to some of us to know how we were to pay our share. I set apart something from my allowance. Lois watched for her papa's pleasant moods. Veva danced up to her father, put her arms around his neck, and lifted her mouth for a kiss, coaxed him for some money to give away, which she always received directly. Others of the girls were at a loss what to do.
Jeanie and Linda had a happy thought, which they carried out. They said: "We have learned how to make bread and biscuits and cake and candy, and we all know how often our friends cannot persuade cooks to stay in their houses. We will make bread or cake on Saturday mornings for anybody who is good enough to pay for it."
They could not see why it was not just as sensible a thing to make and sell good bread as to paint scarfs or embroider tidies, and mother, after she heard of their proposal, quite agreed with them.
Through our efforts, combined as they were, we sent our little girls to Kindergarten, kept warm shoes and stockings on their feet, and brought them up respectably, though Jack Roper was as odd and indolent as ever, and never showed by so much as a look that he imagined anybody took an interest in his children.
Everything pleasant comes to an end, even pleasant vacations, and when the golden-rods were bowing to the asters, like gallant knights to their ladyloves, and the red sumachs were hanging out the first flags of autumn, we girls had to think of school once more.
The books which had been closed for almost three months beckoned us again, and delightful as the Clover Leaf meetings had grown, we knew that for the next nine months we should hold them only on Saturdays, perhaps not always then.
"Girls," said Linda Curtis, "what shall we do for a wind-up to the summer? Something which has never been done in Bloomdale. Something which will be remembered when we are grown up and have forgotten our girlish pranks?"
Linda's suggestion was approved unanimously, but nobody could propose anything which everybody liked.
Finally Jeanie and Amy, who had been putting their heads together, and whispering until the Chair had to call them to order, showed by their smiling faces that they had a bright idea.
"Miss Cartwright has the floor," said the President, gravely.
"I move that the Bloomdale Clover Leaf Club give a reception in the Academy to all the Bloomdale neighbors and friends, with a programme, and refreshments afterward."
"Is the motion seconded?" inquired the President.
"I second the motion," exclaimed Miss Amy Pierce, rapturously.
"It is moved and seconded that we give a reception at the Academy, with a programme and refreshments. Are there any remarks?"
I should think there were. Why, they flew about like snow-flakes in a hurricane.
"Why in the Academy?"
"Why not in somebody's parlor?"
"What sort of a programme?"
"Tableaux would be splendid!"
"Not tableaux! Charades?"
"Why not have a little play? That would be best, and we could all act."
"What sort of refreshments? A regular supper, or lemonade and cake, or cake and ice-cream?"
At last it was resolved to carry out the reception idea, and to have a little play in which Dot and Dimpsie could be brought in, also a very magnificent Maltese cat belonging to Patty Curtis, and Miss Muffet's parrot. The cat, arrayed in a lace ruff, with a red ribbon, would be an imposing figure, and the parrot would look well as one of the properties. Miss Muffet herself, in some character, probably as a Yankee school-mistress, must be persuaded to appear.
Well, you may imagine what a flutter we were in! We trimmed the old Academy with ferns and running pine and great wreaths of golden-rod, while feathery clematis was looped and festooned over the windows and around the portraits of former teachers, which adorned the walls.
Our play was written for us by Mr. Robert Pierce, Amy's brother, who goes to Harvard, and he brought in both our pets, and the cat and parrot, and had in ever so many hits which Bloomdale folks could enjoy, knowing all about them.
The only thing which interfered with my pleasure was that mother was not here, and I had expected her home. I nearly cried into the lemonade, and almost blistered the icing of the pound-cake with tears; but seeing grandmamma gaze at me with a whole exclamation point in her eyes, I gave myself a mental shake, and said, not aloud, but in my mind: "Don't be a baby, Milly Van Doren! A big girl like you! Be good! There, now!"
Who was that? A sweet face in a Quaker bonnet, a white kerchief folded primly over a gown of dove-colored satin, a pure plain dress, looking very distinguished, for all its simplicity, among the gay toilet of the "world's people."
Surely, no—yes, it was, it could be no one but mother!
I threaded my way through the crowded aisles, gentlemen and ladies opening a path for me, and before everybody I was clasped in her dear arms. And there was father smiling down at me, and saying, as mother told me, to be composed, for I was half crying, half laughing: "Of course she'll be composed. I have always said thee could trust our little lass."
I squeezed myself into a seat between the two darlings, forgetful that I was the President of the Clover Leaf Club; and there I sat till the play was over, when something happened that was not on the programme.
A tall shabby form advanced to the front of the room, and mounted the stage.
It was Jack Roper! We held our breath. What did this mean?
"I want, fellow-townsmen and ladies," said Jack, with the utmost coolness, "to return thanks to the Clover Leaf young ladies for the good example they've been a settin' our wives and darters. Them girls is trumps!"
Down sat Jack in a storm of applause. This speech, if not elegant, was at least sincere.
He was followed by a very different personage. No less a man than Judge Curtis arose and gave us a little address, after which Amy Pierce and Lois Partridge played a duet on the piano.
Then the refreshments were distributed. There was a merry time talking and laughing over the feast, and we all went home. Miss Muffet looked radiant, she had so many compliments, and Aunt Hetty, who appeared in her stiffest calico, was not backward in accepting some for herself. Though what she had done, except try my patience, it was puzzling to us to tell.
My precious mother had the very prettiest surprise of all for us when her trunks were opened. It is her way to make people happy, and she goes through the world like an angel.
For every girl in the club she had brought home a silver pin in the shape of a four-leaved clover. "Whether you keep up the club or not," she said, "it will be a pretty souvenir of a very happy summer."
I don't know whether I have made mother's way plain to all my readers, but I hope they see it is a way of taking pains, of being kind, of being honest and diligent, and never doing with one hand what ought to be done with both. If I learn to keep house in mother's way I shall be perfectly satisfied.
Father says: "Thee certainly may, dear child! For my part, I trust my little lass."
The family mail-bag was made of black and white straw arranged in checks. It was flat and nearly square, was lined with gray linen and fastened at the top with narrow black ribbon. It had two long handles, finely made of straw, and these handles Luella and Francis were accustomed to grasp when, twice a day regularly, at half-past eight in the morning and at half-past three in the afternoon, they went for the family mail.
Their instructions were always to go back and forth to the post-office without stopping, always to tie the bag securely after putting the mail inside, and never to open it after it was thus fastened. They were to take turns in carrying the bag, and upon returning to their home were always to take it at once to the study of their father, Rev. Mr. Robinson.
So important a personage as a public mail-carrier had never been seen in the small village in which they lived. In his absence the two children performed their service well. At least they always did excepting on one unfortunate day, and that is the day of which our story is to tell.
The children went to the office as usual, and were quite delighted at finding there a registered letter addressed to "Luella and Francis Robinson." Luella felt very proud when the postmaster asked her, as the elder, to sign the registered receipt.
"What's that for?" asked Francis.
"It's for proof that you've received the letter. You see that a registered letter usually contains something valuable."
"I wonder what it can be? It's from Aunt Maria. See, her address is written on the side of the envelope?"
"Yes," said the postmaster, who was a very good friend of the children. "It's certainly from your aunt, and it probably contains something for you both, but, you'd better put it in your bag now and tie it up, according to your father's wish."
The children obediently acted upon this suggestion and started for home. On their way they talked constantly of their letter, trying vainly to guess what it might contain.
"It's something small, anyway," said Luella, "for it doesn't seem to take any room."
"Maybe 'tisn't anything, after all," said Francis.
"Oh, yes, it is; for the letter is registered, you know."
So they went on talking and wondering until they had gone about half the distance toward home. Then they reached a spreading apple tree which grew by a fence near the sidewalk, and beneath which was a large stone, often used as a resting-place for pedestrians.
"Let's sit down a while," said Francis. "I feel tired; don't you?"
"Yes, but father wouldn't like us to stop."
"Oh, yes, he would, if he knew how tired we are. I'm going to rest a moment, anyway. That can't be any harm."
Luella allowed herself to follow her brother's example. So they took the first step in disobedience.
Next Luella said: "I wonder if we couldn't just unfasten the bag and look at that letter again. It's our letter, you know."
"Of course, it is. Give me the bag. I'll open it."
Then, without more ado, Francis deliberately opened the bag. Thus the second step in wrong-doing was taken.
They examined the letter closely and leisurely, not one minute, but many minutes, passing while they were thus engaged. Then Luella said: "I'm going to read the letter. It's all the same whether we read it here or at home."
It proved to be a very kind letter from Aunt Maria, who had lately made them a visit. She concluded by saying: "While I was with you I took pleasure in noticing your constant obedience. As a sort of reward, I enclose for you each a five-dollar gold piece. Please accept the gift with my love."
"Where are the gold pieces?" asked Francis, taking the envelope from Luella, "Oh! here's one in the corner of this thing. I'll take this; but where's the other?"
Where was the other? It was easier to ask the question than to reply. The two children folded and unfolded the letter. They turned the envelope inside out. They searched through their clothing. They inspected the grass and the path. If it had been possible, they would have lifted the stone upon which they had been sitting; but that would have been an herculean task. At length they reluctantly gave up the search and sadly went on their way homeward.
"I wish we hadn't opened the letter," said Luella. "What are we going to tell mother and father anyhow?"
"Well, I think we'd better tell them the whole story. Perhaps they'll help us look for the other gold piece."
Francis, with the one coin in his hand, naturally took a more hopeful view of the situation than his sister did.
"Perhaps Aunt Maria only put one in the letter," he suggested.
Francis echoed the wish in his heart, though he did not repeat it aloud. Thus, a repentant couple, they entered the house and the study. Mother was upstairs attending to baby, and father was evidently out. The brother and sister awaited his return in silence, Luella meanwhile grasping the letter, and Francis the single coin.
"What's that you have?" asked Mr. Robinson; "a letter? How did it get out of the bag?"
"It's ours," answered Luella, trembling while she spoke. "We—we—we—" then she burst into tears.
"Let me have it," commanded Mr. Robinson.
Luella obeyed, and went on weeping while her father read. Francis wanted to cry, too, but he thought it was unmanly, and choked back the tears.
"I need ask you no more questions," said their father. "The truth is that I was calling on old Mrs. Brown when you stopped under the apple tree, and I saw the whole thing from her window. You don't know how sorry I felt when I found that my boy and girl couldn't be trusted. I saw that you had lost something, and after you had left I examined the grass about the stone and found the other gold piece. But I shall have to punish you by putting the money away for a whole month. At the end of that time I will return it to you, if I find that you are obedient meanwhile. I do not intend to be severe, but I think that ordinarily you are good children, and I understand how strong the temptation was. Are you not sorry that you yielded to it?"
"Yes, sir, we are," exclaimed both children, emphatically.
"And now, what am I going to do about the mail-bag? Can I let you have it after this?"
"Yes, father, you can," they both replied once more; and after that they were always worthy of their trust.
When Aunt Maria made her next visit they told her the story of their misdoing. Her only comment was: "You see, children, that it is necessary always to pray, 'Deliver us from evil,' for even when we want to do right, without help from above, we shall fail."
Six lively boys had been spending their vacation at Clovernook Farm, and, as any one may imagine, they had been having the liveliest sort of a time.
There were Mr. Hobart's two nephews, James and Fred; and Mrs. Hobart's two nephews, John and Albert, and two others, Milton and Peter, who, though only distant cousins, were considered as part of the family.
To tell of all the things that these six had been doing during the eight weeks of their stay would be to write a history in several volumes. They had had innumerable games of tennis and croquet; had fished along the banks of streams; helped in the harvest field; taken straw-rides by moonlight; traveled many scores of miles on bicycles; taken photographs good and bad; gone out with picnic parties; learned to churn and to work butter; picked apples and eaten them, and they had plenty of energy left still.
The climax of their enjoyment was reached on the very last day of their visit. Mr. Hobart had promised to take them for a day's fishing on a lake about ten miles distant from his house. On this fair September day he redeemed his promise. A jolly load set out in the gray of the early morning, equipped with poles, lines, bait, and provisions enough for the day. Having no other way to give vent to their spirits, they sang college songs all along the road. Of course, they surprised many an early riser by their vigorous rendering of familiar airs. Even cows and chickens and horses and pigs gazed at them with wondering eyes, as if to say, "Who are these noisy fellows, disturbing our morning meditations?"
As the boys approached the lake they saw a strange-looking object on the water. What it might be they could not for a while decide. Certainly it was not a boat, and what else could be floating so calmly several feet out from the land?
At length their strained eyes solved the mystery. It was a rudely built raft with a stool upon it, and upon the stool sat a ragged urchin ten or twelve years of age.
"Ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha!" shouted the six boys in unison.
"Fine rig you have there!" called one.
"What will you take for your ship?" shouted another.
For all response the stranger simply stared.
"Don't hurt his feelings, boys," said Mr. Hobart kindly, "he's getting enjoyment in his own way, and I suspect that it's the best way he knows of."
About noon, however, as they were resting on the shore, he appeared before them with an old cigar box in his hand.
"Want some crickets and grasshoppers?" he asked timidly. "I've been catching them for you, if you want them."
"Yes, they are exactly the things we need," replied Mr. Hobart. "How much do you want for the lot?"
"Oh, you're welcome to them. I hadn't nothin' else to do."
"Well, that's what I call returning good for evil. Didn't you hear these chaps laugh at you this morning?"
"Yes, but that's nothin'. I'm used to that sort of thing. Folks has laughed at me allus."
"Well, we won't laugh at you now. Have some dinner, if you won't have any pay."
The boy had refused money, but he could not refuse the tempting sandwiches and cakes which were offered to him. His hungry look appealed to the hearts of the other boys quite as forcibly as his comical attitude had before appealed to their sense of the ludicrous.
Now they shared their dinner with him in most hospitable manner. Fortunately Mrs. Hobart was of a generous disposition, and had provided an abundance of food. Otherwise the picnic baskets might have given out with this new demand upon their contents.
"What shall we call you?" said Mr. Hobart to the unexpected guest.
"Sam Smith's my name. I am generally called Sam for short."
"Well, Sam, I think you're right down hungry, and I'm glad you happened along our way. Where do you live, my boy?"
"I've been a-workin' over there in the farmhouse yonder, but they've got through with me, and I'm just a-makin' up my mind where to go next."
"Seems to me you're rather young to earn your own living. Have you no father or mother?"
"Yes, in the city. But they have seven other boys and it's pretty hard work to get along. I'm the oldest, I am, so I try to turn a penny for myself. A gentleman got me this place, and paid my way out here, but he's gone back to town now. I s'pose he hoped the folks would keep me, but they don't need me no longer."
Mr. Hobart was a man of kindly deeds. More than that, he was a Christian. As he stood talking with the stranger lad the words of the Master ran through his mind: "The poor ye have with ye always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good."
"How would you like to engage yourself to me for the fall and winter? These boys are all going off to-morrow, and I need a boy about your size to run errands and help me with the chores."
"Yes, really I do. I want a good boy who will obey me and my wife, and I have an idea that you may suit."
"I'll try to, sir."
"Then jump into that boat and help us fish and I'll take you home with me to-night."
Sam cast a farewell glance at his raft, just then floating out of sight. He had nothing else to take leave of, and no further arrangements to make; no packing to do and no baggage to carry. He had simply himself and the few clothes he wore. At evening he went home with Mr. Hobart in the most matter-of-course way. When the load of fishermen drew up at the barn-door he jumped out and began to unhitch as though that had been his lifelong work.
Mrs. Hobart, coming out to give a welcome to the chattering group, appeared rather puzzled as she counted heads in the twilight. Mr. Hobart enjoyed the surprise which he had been expecting.
"Yes, wife," said he aside, answering her thoughts, "I took out six this morning and I've brought back seven to-night. We've been for a day's fishing, you know, and I rather guess I've caught something more valuable than bass or perch, though they're good enough in their way."
"Where did you find him?" asked Mrs. Hobart.
"Sitting on a raft out on the lake."
"He's a poor, homeless fellow, and I reckon that there's room in our house for one of Christ's little ones. Isn't that so, wife?"
"Yes, Reuben, it is."
"Then we'll do the best we can for this young chap. I mean to write to his parents, for he has given me their address. I think there will be no trouble in arranging to have him stay with us. We'll see what we can make out of him."
"Reuben, I believe you're always looking out for a chance to do some good!"
"That's the way it ought to be, wife."
This conversation took place behind the carryall. None of the boys heard it. The six visitors, however, all caught the spirit of benevolence from their host. Before departing next day each one had contributed from his wardrobe some article of clothing for Sam, and they all showered him with good wishes as they left.
"Hope to find you here next summer," they shouted in driving off.
"Hope so," responded Sam.
"Dear me! There come Uncle Josh and Aunt Jane, and not a bed in the house is made!" Mrs. Upton glanced nervously at the clock—then about to strike eleven—surveyed with dismay the disordered kitchen, looked through the open door into the dining-room, where the unwashed breakfast dishes were yet standing, took her hands out of the dough and ran to wash them at the faucet.
"Maria, Maria, stir around. See what you can pick up while they're getting out of the cab. Isn't it always just so?"
Maria, the daughter of fifteen, hastily laid aside her novel and did her best to remove the cups and saucers from the breakfast table, not omitting to break one in her hurry. Meanwhile her mother closed the kitchen door, caught up from the dining-room sofa a promiscuous pile of hats, coats, rubbers and shawls, threw them into a convenient closet, placed the colored cloth on the table and hastened to open the front door to admit her guests.
"Yes, and got Jenkins to bring us up from the station. He's to take us back at three o'clock this afternoon. We can't make a long visit, but we're going to take dinner with you, if it's perfectly convenient."
"Oh, yes! of course. It's always convenient to have you. We don't make strangers of you at all."
While Mrs. Upton spoke these hospitable words her heart sank within her at the remembrance of her unbaked bread and her neglect to order meat for dinner.
"Here, Maria, just help Aunt Jane to take off her wraps, I'll be right back."
Mrs. Upton darted up-stairs, carrying with her a pair of trousers which she had been over an hour in mending. For want of them Charlie had been unable to go to school that morning. He was reading in his room.
"Here, Charlie! Put these on and run down to the butcher's and get some steak, and stop at the baker's and get some rolls and a pie, and tell them I'll pay them to-morrow. I don't know where my pocketbook is now."
"Ma," drawled Charlie in reply, "I haven't my shoes up here, only my slippers and rubbers."
If Uncle Josh had thought so he would have been near the truth. Mrs. Upton was one of those unfortunate persons who seem to be always hard at work and always in the drag. She had the undesirable faculty of taking hold of things wrong end first.
As water does not rise higher than its level, so children are not apt to have better habits than their parents. Charlie and Maria and the rest of the family lived in a state of constant confusion.
At noon Mr. Upton came to dinner. It was not unusual for him to be forced to wait, and he had learned to be resigned; so he sat down patiently to talk with the visitors. Soon three children came in from school, all eager to eat and return. What with their clamorous demands, and the necessity for preparing extra vegetables and side-dishes, and anxiety to please all around, and to prevent her bread from growing sour, Mrs. Upton was nearly distracted. Yet Maria tried to help, and Aunt Jane invariably looked upon matters with the kindly eye of charity. Things were not so bad as they might have been, and dinner was ready at last.
"Wife," said Uncle Josh, "Charlie's too bright a young fellow to be left to grow up in this way. Suppose we take him home with us for a while?"
"There's nothing I would like better," responded Aunt Jane, whose motherly heart was yet sore with grief for her own little Charlie, who had been laid in the church-yard years before.
When Mrs. Upton again emerged from the depths of the kitchen they repeated the proposal to her, and gained her assent at once.
Charlie was next to be informed, but that was not an easy matter. The boy could nowhere be found.
"Perhaps he's gone to school," suggested Aunt Jane.
"No, I told him that since he had to be absent this morning he might as well be absent all day. He's somewhere about."
A prolonged search ended in the barn, where Charlie at last was found, trying to whittle a ruler out of a piece of kindling-wood. He wished to draw maps and had mislaid or lost most of the articles necessary for the work.
"Charlie!" exclaimed his mother, "Uncle Josh and Aunt Jane want to take you home with them for a long visit. We've been looking all over for you. I've been putting your best clothes in a bag, but you'll have to be careful about holding it shut, because I can't find the key. Now hurry and dress yourself if you want to go."
Charlie gave a loud whistle of delight and hastened to the house to arrange his toilet. He washed his face and hands, brushed his hair, put on a clean collar, and then went to the kitchen to blacken his shoes. He expected to find them on his feet, but lo! there were only the slippers and rubbers, donned in the forenoon and forgotten until now.
"Ma! where are my shoes?" he called in stentorian tones. Mrs. Upton replied from above stairs, where she was putting a stitch in her son's cap: "I don't know—haven't seen them."
"Well, I left them in the kitchen last night. Here, Maria, help a fellow, won't you? I can't find my shoes and it's nearly train time. There's Jenkins at the door now."
The united efforts of all present resulted in finding the shoes entangled in an afghan which Mrs. Upton had unintentionally placed in the heap in the closet when she relieved the sofa of its burden.
"Here they are at last. Bravo!" shouted Charlie. Yet his joy was short lived. One shoe wouldn't go on. He had slipped it off on the previous night without unfastening. There were several knots in the string, and all were unmanageable. He struggled breathlessly while Uncle Josh and Aunt Jane were getting into the cab, then broke the string in desperation just as Jenkins, hearing the car-whistle, drove off to reach the train.
"Very sorry! Can't wait another instant!" called out Uncle Josh. Charlie, having repaired damages as best he could, reached the front door in time to see the back of the carriage away down the street.
"Time and tide wait for no man," observed his mother exasperatingly. Perhaps her quotation of the proverb carried with it the weight of her experience. Perhaps she thought it her duty to give moral lessons to her son, regardless of illustrations.
Charlie's disappointment was rendered bitterer still, when the following week there came a letter from Uncle Josh saying that he and Aunt Jane were about taking a trip to the West.
"Tell Charlie," said the letter, "that if we only had him with us we should certainly take him along."
"Isn't it too bad," said Charlie, "to think I've missed so much, and all through the want of a shoe-string?"
It was a rainy day in summer. A chilly wind swept about the house and bent the branches of the trees, and reminded every one who encountered it that autumn, with its gales, would return as promptly as ever.
A bright fire was blazing in the sitting-room, and near it were Mrs. Strong with her two little girls, and also Aunt Martha Bates, whom they were visiting. Rufus Strong, aged fourteen, stood by a closed window, listlessly drumming on a pane.
He was tired of reading, and tired of watching the ladies sew, and tired of building toy houses for his sisters.
"I guess I'll go out to the barn and find Uncle Giles," said he at length.
Mrs. Strong, who had found the music on the window pane rather monotonous, quickly responded in favor of the plan.
"Just the one I want to see!" exclaimed Uncle Giles, as Rufus made his appearance at the barn door. "I'm getting my tools in order, and now you can turn the grind-stone while I sharpen this scythe."
Rufus cheerfully agreed to this proposal, and performed his part with a hearty good will.
"Well, yes; I always look over them and see if they need attention. Then when I want them they are ready for use. Now, since this job is done, suppose you undertake another. Wouldn't this be a good time to paint those boxes for Aunt Martha's flowers? You know you promised to paint them for her, and if you do it now, they'll be good and dry when she wants to pot her plants in September?"
"I think you believe in preparing for work beforehand, don't you, Uncle Giles?"
"Yes, indeed, that I do. It saves ever so much time when you have any work to do to have things all ready. What's the matter, can't you find the paint brush?"
"No, Uncle, and I'm sure that I saw it in its place not very long ago."
This reminded Uncle Giles that neighbor Jones had borrowed the brush a few days previous and had not yet returned it.
"He promised to bring it home that day," said Mr. Bates, "but he's not apt to do things promptly. I guess you'll have to step over to his house and ask him if he's through with it."
Rufus started off on the errand and soon, returned carrying the brush in a small tin pail, half-full of water.
Mr. Bates looked rather annoyed. Accustomed to perfect order himself, he was often irritated by the slovenly ways of his neighbor.
"Then there's nothing for you to do but repair damages as well as you can. What color of paint is in the brush?"
"And you want to use green. You'll have to go to the house and get some warm soap-suds and give the brush a thorough washing."
Rufus found that he had plenty of occupation for some time after that. The brush was soaked up to the handle in the bright red paint, and it was a work of patience to give it the necessary cleaning. Indeed, dinner time found him just ready to begin the task which might have been easily accomplished in the morning had it not been for that long delay.
After dinner he and Uncle Giles again repaired to the barn, where the elder cleaned harness while the younger painted.
"I think I begin to realize," said Rufus, "that your plan of having tools ready is a good one."
"Yes, I think so now, Uncle."
"Then you are getting some of your tools ready when you are studying Latin and history and other things in school. And you are getting others ready when you read the Bible, and when you study your Sunday-school lesson, and when you listen to the preaching of your minister. You need to take pains to remember what you learn in these ways, for the good things in your memory will be the tools that you will have constant use for.
"I know a young man who is now studying for the ministry. I think he will succeed, for he is very much in earnest and he has natural ability, too. Yet he finds his task rather difficult, because he had no opportunity to study when he was younger. He has not been trained to think or to remember, and the work he is doing now is something like your washing the paint brush this morning. It must all be done before he can go on to anything better, and he regrets that it was not done at the proper time."
"I suppose that the moral for me is to improve my privileges."
"Yes, that's just it. Improve your privileges by getting ready beforehand for the work of life. If the paint brush teaches you this lesson, you may be glad that you had to stop to get it clean."
(A Child's Story.)
It was examination week at Mount Seward College, but most of the work was over, and the students were waiting in the usual fever of anxiety to learn the verdict on their papers, representing so much toil and pains. Some of the girls were nearly as much concerned about their graduating gowns as about their diplomas, but as independence was in the air at Mount Seward, these rather frivolous girls were in the minority. During term time most of the students wore the regulation cap and gown, and partly owing to the fact that Mount Seward was a college with traditions of plain living and high thinking behind it, and partly because the youngest and best-loved professor was a woman of rare and noble characteristics, a woman who had set her own stamp on her pupils, and furnished them an ideal, dress and fashion were secondary considerations here. There were no low emulations at Mount Seward.
A group of girls in a bay-window over-looking the campus were discussing the coming commencement. From various rooms came the steady, patient sound of pianos played for practice. On the green lawn in front of the president's cottage two or three intellectual looking professors and tutors walked up and down, evidently discussing an affair that interested them.
The postman strolled over the campus wearily, as who should say, "This is my last round, and the bag is abominably heavy."
He disappeared within a side door, and presently there was a hurrying and scurrying of fresh-faced young women, bright-eyed and blooming under the mortar-caps, jauntily perched over their braids and ringlets, rushing toward that objective point, the college post-office. One would have fancied that letters came very seldom, to see their excitement.
Margaret Lee received two letters. She did not open either in the presence of her friends, but went with a swift step and a heightened color to her own suite of rooms. Two small alcoves, curtained off from a pleasant little central sitting-room, composed the apartment Margaret shared with her four years' chum Alice Raynor. Alice was not there, yet Margaret did not seat herself in the room common to both, but entered her own alcove, drew the portiere, and sat down on the edge of the iron bed, not larger than a soldier's camp cot. It was an austere little cell, simple as a nun's, with the light falling from one narrow window on the pale face and brown hair of the young girl, to whom the unopened letters in her hand signified so much.
Which should she read first? One, in a large square envelope, addressed in a bold, business-like hand, bore a Western postmark, and had the printed order to return, if not delivered in ten days, to Hilox University, Colorado. The other, in a cramped, old-fashioned hand, bore the postmark of a hamlet in West Virginia. It was a thin letter, evidently belonging to the genus domestic correspondence, a letter from Margaret's home.
Which should she open first? There was an evident struggle, and a perceptible hesitation. Then she laid the home letter resolutely down on the pillow of her bed, and, with a hair-pin, that woman's tool which suits so many uses, delicately and dexterously cut the envelope of the letter from Hilox. It began formally, and was very brief:
"My dear Miss Lee:—The trustees and faculty of Hilox University have been looking for a woman, a recent graduate of distinction from some well-established Eastern college, to take the chair of Greek in our new institution. You have been recommended as thoroughly qualified for the position. The salary is not at present large, but our university is growing, and we offer a tempting field to an energetic and ambitious woman. May we write you more fully on the subject, if you are inclined to take our vacancy into your favorable consideration?
Then followed the signature of the president of Hilox, a man whose name and fame were familiar to Margaret Lee.
The girl's cheek glowed; her dark eyes deepened; a look of power and purpose settled upon the sweet full lips. For this she had studied relentlessly; to this end she had looked; with this in view her four years' course had been pursued with pluck and determination. The picture of Joanna Baker, as young as herself, climbing easily to the topmost round of the ladder, had fired and stimulated her, and she had allowed it to be known that her life was dedicated to learning, and by-and-by to teaching.
All the faculty at Mount Seward knew her aspirations, and several of the professors had promised their aid in securing her a position, but she had not expected anything of this kind so soon.
Why, her diploma would not be hers until next week! Surely there must be some benignant angel at work in her behalf. But—Hilox? Had she ever met any one from Hilox?
Memory recalled an episode two years back, and half-forgotten. Margaret had been spending her vacation at home in the West Virginia mountains, and a man had fallen in love with her. There was nothing remarkable in this, for a beautiful girl of seventeen, graceful, dignified, accomplished, and enthusiastic, is a very lovable creature. A visiting stranger in the village, the minister's cousin, had been much at her father's house, had walked and boated with her, and shared her rides over the hills, both on sure-footed mountain ponies. As a friend Margaret had liked Dr. Angus, as a comrade had found him delightful, but her heart had not been touched. What had she, with her Greek professorate looming up like a star in mid-heaven before her—what had she to do with love and a lover? She had managed to make Dr. Angus know this before he had quite committed himself by a proposal; but she had understood what was in his thought, and she knew that he knew that she knew all about it. And Dr. Angus had remained and settled down as a practitioner in the little mountain town. The town had a future before it, for two railroads were already projected to cross it, and there were coal mines in the neighborhood, and, altogether, a man might do worse than drive his roots into this soil. She had heard now and then of Dr. Angus since that summer—her last vacation had been passed with cousins in New England—and he was said to be courting a Mrs. Murray, a rich and charming neighbor of her father's.
Dr. Angus had friends in Colorado. Now she remembered he had a relative who had helped to found Hilox, and had endowed a chair of languages or literature; she was not certain which. So it must be to him she was indebted, and, oddly, she was more indignant than grateful. The natural intervention of a friendly hand in the matter took all the satisfaction out of her surprise.
Not that she loved Dr. Angus! But she did not choose to be under an obligation to him. What girl would in the circumstances?
All this time the letter from home lay overlooked on the pillow. If it could have spoken it would have reproached the daughter for her absorption in its companion, but it bided its time. Presently Margaret turned with a start, saw it, felt a remorseful stab, and tore it open, without the aid of a hair-pin.
This is what the home letter had to say. It was from Margaret's father, and as he seldom wrote to her, leaving, as many men do, the bulk of correspondence with absent members of the family to be the care of his wife and children, she felt a premonitory thrill.
The Lees were a very affectionate and devoted household, clannish to a degree, and undemonstrative, as mountaineers often are. The deep well of their love did not foam and ripple like a brook, but the water was always there, to draw upon at will. "The shallows murmur, but the deeps are dumb." It was so in the house of Duncan Lee.
"My dear Daughter Margaret" (the letter began),—"I hope these lines will find you well, and your examination crowned with success. We have thought and talked of you much lately, and wished we could be with you to see you when you are graduated. Mother would have been so glad to go, but it is my sad duty to inform you that she is not well. Do not be anxious, Margaret. There is no immediate danger, but your dear mother has been more or less ailing ever since last March, and she does not get better. We fear there will have to be a surgical operation—perhaps more than one. She may have to live, as people sometimes do, for years with a knife always over her head. We want you to come home, Margaret, as soon as you can. I enclose a check for all expenses, and I will see that you are met at the railway terminus, so you need not take the long stage-ride all by yourself. But I am afraid I have not broken it to you gently, my dear, as mother said I must. Forgive me; I am just breaking my heart in these days, and I need you as much almost as your mother does.
A vision rose before Margaret, as with tear-blurred eyes she folded her father's letter and replaced it in its cover. She brushed the tears away and looked at the date. Four days ago the letter had been posted. Her home, an old homestead in a valley that nestled deep and sweet in the heart of the grand mountain range, guarding it on every side, rose before her. She saw her father, grizzled, stooping-shouldered, care-worn, old-fashioned in dress, precise in manner, a gentleman of the old school, a man who had never had much money, but who had sent his five sons and his one daughter to college, giving them, what the Lees prized most in life, a liberal education. She saw her mother, thin, fair, tall, with the golden hair that would fade but would never turn gray, the blue child-like eyes, the wistful mouth.
"Mother!" she gasped, "mother!"
The horror of the malady that had seized on the beautiful, dainty, lovely woman, so like a princess in her bearing, so notable in her housewifery, so neighborly, so maternal, swept over her in a hot tide, retreated, leaving her shivering.
"I must go home," she said, "and at once!" With feet that seemed to her weighted with lead she went straight to the room of the Dean, knowing that in that gracious woman's spirit there would be instant comprehension, and that she would receive wise advice.
"My dear!" said the Dean, "you have heard from Hilox, haven't you? We are so proud of you; we want you to represent our college and our culture there. It is a magnificent opportunity, Margaret."
The Dean was very short-sighted, and she did not catch at first the look on Margaret's face.
"Yes," she answered, in a voice that sounded muffled and lifeless, "I have heard from Hilox; I had almost forgotten, but I must answer the letter. Dear Mrs. Wade, I have heard from home, too. My mother is very ill, and she needs me. I must go at once—to-morrow morning. I cannot wait for Commencement."
The Dean asked for further information. Then she urged that Margaret should wait over the annual great occasion; so much was due the college, she thought, and she pointed out the fact that Mr. Lee had not asked her to leave until the exercises were over.
But Margaret had only one reply: "My mother needs me; I must go!"
A week later, at sunset, the old lumbering stage, rolling over the steep hills and the smooth dales drew up at Margaret's home. Tired, but with a steadfast light in her eyes, the girl stepped down, received her father's kiss, and went straight to her mother, waiting in the doorway.
"I am glad—glad you have come, my darling!" said the mother. "While you are here I can give everything up. But, my love, this is not what we planned!"
"No, my dearest," said the girl, "but that is of no consequence. I wish I had known sooner how much, how very much, I was wanted at home!"
"But you will not be a Professor of Greek!" said the mother that night. It was all arranged for the operation, which was to take place in a week's time, the surgeons to come from the nearest town. The mother was brave, gay, heroic. Margaret looked at her, wondering that one under the shadow of death could laugh and talk so brightly.
"No. I will be something better," she said, tenderly. "I will be your nurse, your comfort if I can. If I had only known, there are many things better than Greek that I might have learned!"
Hilox did not get its Greek professor, but the culture of Mount Seward was not wasted. Mrs. Lee lived years, often in anguish unspeakable, relieved by intervals of peace and freedom from pain. The daughter became almost the mother in their intercourse as time passed, and the bloom on her cheek paled sooner than on her mother's in the depth of her sympathy. But the end came at last, and the suffering life went out with a soft sigh, as a child falls asleep.
On a little shelf in Margaret's room her old text-books, seldom opened, are souvenirs of her busy life at college. Her hand has learned the cunning which concocts dainty dishes and lucent jellies; her housekeeping and her hospitality are famous. She is a bright talker, witty, charming, with the soft inflections which make the vibrant tunefulness of the Virginian woman's voice so tender and sweet a thing in the ear. Mount Seward is to her the Mecca of memory. If ever she has a daughter she will send her there, and—who knows?—that girl may be professor at Hilox.
For though Margaret is not absent from her own household, she is not long to be Margaret Lee. The wedding-cake is made, and is growing rich and firm as it awaits the day when the bride will cut it. The wedding-gown is ordered. Dr. Angus has proposed at last; he had never thought of wooing or winning any one except the fair girl who caught his fancy and his heart ten years ago, and when Margaret next visits her New England relations it will be to present her husband.
The professor, who had been her most dearly beloved friend during those happy college days, her confidante and model, said to one who recalled Margaret Lee and spoke of her as "a great disappointment, my dear:"
"Yes, we expected her to make a reputation for herself and Mount Seward. She has done better. She has been enabled to do her duty in the station to which it has pleased God to call her—a good thing for any girl graduate, it seems to me."
"Papa has come," shouted Archie Conwood, as he rushed down stairs two steps at a time, with his sisters Minnie and Katy following close behind, and mamma bringing up the rear. Papa had been to Cousin Faraton's to see if he could engage summer board for the family.
Cousin Faraton lived in a pleasant village about a hundred miles distant from the city in which Mr. and Mrs. Conwood were living. They had agreed that to board with him would insure a pleasant vacation for all.
Papa brought a good report. Everything had been favorably arranged.
"And what do you think!" he asked, in concluding his narrative. "Cousin Faraton has persuaded me to buy a bicycle for you, Archie. He thought it would be quite delightful for you and your Cousin Samuel to ride about on their fine roads together. So I stopped and ordered one on my way home."
"Oh, you dear, good papa?" exclaimed Archie, "do let me give you a hug."
"Nothing could be better, if taken in moderation," Mr. Conwood positively replied, thus setting his wife's fears at rest.
The order for the bicycle was promptly filled, and Archie had some opportunity of using it before going to the country. When the day for leaving town arrived, he was naturally more interested in the safe carrying of what he called his "machine" than in anything else connected with the journey.
He succeeded in taking it to Cousin Faraton's uninjured, and was much pleased to find that it met with the entire approbation of Samuel, whose opinion, as he was two years older than himself, was considered most important.
The two boys immediately planned a short excursion for the following day, and obtained the consent of their parents.
Breakfast next morning was scarcely over when they made their start. The sunshine was bright, the sky was cloudless; they were well and strong. Everything promised the pleasantest sort of a day. Yet, alas! for all human hopes. Who can tell what sudden disappointment a moment may bring?
The cousins had just disappeared from view of the group assembled on the piazza to see them start, when Samuel came back in breathless haste, exclaiming:
The two fathers ran at full speed to the spot where Archie was, and found him pale and almost fainting by the roadside. They picked him up and carried him tenderly back to the house, while Samuel hurried off for the village doctor. Fortunately he found him in his carriage about setting forth on his morning round and quite ready to drive at a rapid rate to the scene of the accident.
The first thing to be done was to administer a restorative, for Archie had had a severe shock. The next thing was an examination, which resulted in the announcement of a broken leg.
Surely there was an end to all plans for a pleasant vacation.
The doctor might be kind, sympathetic and skillful, as indeed he was. The other children might unite in trying to entertain their injured playfellow. They might bring him flowers without number, and relate to him their various adventures, and read him their most interesting story-books—all this they did. Mother might be tireless in her devotion, trying day and night to make him forget the pain—what mother would not have done all in her power?
Still there was no escape from the actual suffering, no relief from the long six weeks' imprisonment; while outside the birds were singing and the summer breezes playing in ever so many delightful places that might have been visited had it not been for that broken leg.
Archie tried to be brave and cheerful, and to conceal from every one the tears which would sometimes force their way to his eyes.
He endeavored to interest himself in the amusements which were within his reach, and he succeeded admirably. Yet the fact remained that he was having a sadly tedious vacation.
The kind-hearted doctor often entertained him by telling of his experiences while surgeon in a hospital during the war.
"Do you know," he said one day in the midst of a story, "that the men who had been bravest on the field of battle were most patient in bearing suffering? They showed what we call fortitude, and bravery and fortitude go hand in hand."
This was an encouraging thought to Archie, for he resolved to show that he could endure suffering as well as any soldier. Another thing that helped him very much was the fact, of which his mother reminded him, that by trying to be patient he was doing what he could, to please the Lord Jesus.
"It was He," she said, "who allowed this trial to come to you, because He saw that through it you might grow to be a better and a nobler boy. And you will be growing better every day by simply trying to be patient, as I see you do."
"I want to be, mamma," Archie answered; "and there's another thing about this broken leg, I think it will teach me to care more when other people are sick."
"No doubt it will, Archie, and if you learn to exercise patience and sympathy, your vacation will not be lost, after all."
Jack Hillyard turned over in his hand the few bits of silver which he had taken from his little tin savings-bank. There were not very many of them, a ten cent piece, a quarter, half a dollar and an old silver six-pence. And he had been saving them up a long, long time.
"Well," said Jack to himself, soberly, "there aren't enough to buy mother a silk dress, but I think I'll ask Cousin Susy, if she won't spend my money and get up a birthday party for the darling little mother. A birthday cake, with, let me see, thirty-six candles, that'll be a lot, three rows deep, and a big bunch of flowers, and a book. Mother's never had a birthday party that I remember. She's always been so awfully busy working hard for us, and so awfully tired when night came, but I mean her to have one now, or my name's not Jack."
Away went Jack to consult Cousin Susy.
He found her very much occupied with her dressmaking, for she made new gowns and capes for all the ladies in town, and she was finishing up Miss Kitty Hardy's wedding outfit. With her mouth full of pins, Cousin Susy could not talk, but her brown eyes beamed on Jack as she listened to his plan. At last she took all the pins out of her mouth, and said:
"Leave it all to me, Jack. We'll give her a surprise party; I'll see about everything, dear. Whom shall we ask?"
"When thou makest a dinner or a supper," said Jack, repeating his golden text of the last Sunday's lesson, "call not thy friends, nor thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest they also bid thee again and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed, for they cannot recompense thee."
"Jack! Jack! Jack!" exclaimed Cousin Susy.
"I was only repeating my last golden text," answered Jack. "We don't often have to give a feast, and as it was so extraordinary," said Jack, saying the big word impressively, "I thought of my verse. I suppose we'd better ask the people mother likes, and they are the poor, the halt, the blind, and the deaf; for we haven't any rich neighbors, nor any kinsmen, except you, dear Cousin Susy."
"Well, I'm a kinswoman and a neighbor, dear, but I'm not rich. Now, let me see," said Miss Susy, smoothing out the shining white folds of Kitty Hardy's train. "We will send notes, and you must write them. There is old Ralph, the peddler, who is too deaf to hear if you shout at him ever and ever so much, but he'll enjoy seeing a good time; and we'll have Florrie Maynard, with her crutches and her banjo, and she'll have a happy time and sing for us; and Mrs. Maloney, the laundress, with her blind Patsy. I don't see Jackie, but you'll have a Scripture party after all. Run along and write your letters, and to-night we'll trot around and deliver them."
This was the letter Jack wrote:
"Dear Friend:—My mother's going to have a birthday next Saturday night, and she'll be thirty-six years old. That's pretty old. So I'm going to give her a surprise birthday party, and Cousin Susy's helping me with the surprise. Please come and help too, at eight o'clock sharp.
When this note was received everybody decided to go, and, which Jack did not expect, everybody decided to take a present along.
"You'll spend all my money, won't you?" said Jack.
"Certainly, my boy, I will, every penny. Except, perhaps, the old silver sixpence. Suppose we give that to the mother as a keepsake?"
"Very well, you know best. All I want is that she shall have a good time, a very good time. She's such a good mother."
"Jack," said Susy, "you make me think of some verses I saw in a book the other day. Let me read them to you." And Cousin Susy, who had a way of copying favorite poems and keeping them, fished out this one from her basket:
Now, some people couldn't do very much with the funds at Cousin Susy's disposal, but she could, and when Jack's money was spent for refreshments what do you think they had? Why, a great big pan of gingerbread, all marked out in squares with the knife, and raisins in it; and a round loaf of cup cake, frosted over with sugar, with thirty-six tiny tapers all ready to light, and a pitcher of lemonade, a plate of apples, and a big platter of popped corn.
Jack danced for joy, but softly, for mother had come home from her day's work and was tired, and the party was to be a surprise, and she was not to be allowed to step into the little square parlor.
That parlor was the pride of Jack and his mother. It had a bright rag carpet, a table with a marble top, six chairs, and a stool called an ottoman. On the wall between the windows hung a framed picture of Jack's dear father, who was in heaven, and over the mantelpiece there was a framed bouquet of flowers, embroidered by Jack's mother on white satin, when she had been a girl at school.
"Seems to me, Jack," said Mrs. Hillyard as she sat down in the kitchen to her cup of tea, "there is a smell of fresh gingerbread; I wonder who's having company."
Jack almost bit his tongue trying not to laugh.
"Oh!" said he grandly, "gingerbread isn't anything, mamma. When I'm a man you shall have pound-cake every day for breakfast."
By and by Mrs. Maloney and Patsy dropped in.
"I thought," said Mrs. Maloney, "it was kind o'lonesome-like at home, and I'd step in and see you and Jack to-night, ma'am."
"Why, here comes Mr. Ralph," she added. "Well the more the merrier!"
Tap, tap, tap.
The neighbors kept coming, and coming, and Jack grew more and more excited, till at last when all were present, Cousin Susy, opening the parlor door, displayed the marble-top of the table covered with a white cloth, and there were the refreshments.
"A happy birthday, mother."
"May you live a hundred years."
One and another had some kind word to say, and each gave a present, a card, or a flower, or a trifle of some sort, but with so much good will and love that Mrs. Hillyard's face beamed. All day she stood behind a counter in a great big shop, and worked hard for her bread and Jack's, but when evening came she was a queen at home with her boy and her friends to pay her honor.
"And were you surprised, and did you like the cake and the thirty-six candles, dearest, darling mamma?" said Jack, when everybody had gone home.
"Yes, my own manly little laddie, I liked everything, and I was never so surprised in my life." So the birthday party was a great success.
A Lay Made About the Year of the City CCCLX.
 Lord Macaulay's ballad should be known by heart by every schoolboy. It is the finest of the famous "Lays of Ancient Rome."
It not only rained, but it poured; so the brightness was certainly not in the sky. It was Sunday, too, and that fact, so Phœbe thought, added to the gloominess of the storm. For Phœbe had left behind her the years in which she had been young and strong, and in which she had no need to regard the weather. Now if she went out in the rain she was sure to suffer afterward with rheumatism, so, of course, a day like this made her a prisoner within doors. There she had not very much to occupy her. She and her husband, Gardener Jim, lived so simply that it was a small matter to prepare and clear away their meals, and, that being attended to, what was there for her to do?
Phœbe had never been much of a scholar, and reading even the coarse-print Bible, seemed to try her eyes. Knitting on Sunday was not to be thought of, and there was nobody passing by to be watched and criticised. Altogether Phœbe considered it a very dreary day.
In the big house near by lived Jim's employer, Mr. Stevens. There matters were livelier, for there were living five healthy, happy children, whose mother scarcely knew the meaning of the word quiet. When it drew near two o'clock in the afternoon they were all begging to be allowed to go to Sunday-school.
"You'll let me go, won't you, ma?" cried Jessie, the oldest, and Tommy and Nellie and Johnny and even baby Clara echoed the petition. Mrs. Stevens thought the thing over and decided that Jessie and Tommy might go. For the others, she would have Sunday-school at home.
"Be sure to put on your high rubbers and your water-proofs and take umbrellas." These were the mother's instructions as the two left the family sitting-room. A few moments after, Jessie looked in again. "Well, you are wrapped up!" exclaimed Mrs. Stevens, "I don't think the storm can hurt you." "Neither do I, ma, and Oh! I forgot to ask you before, may we stop at Gardener Jim's on the way home?"
"Yes, if you'll be careful not to make any trouble for him and Phœbe, and will come home before supper-time."
Tommy, who was standing behind Jessie in the doorway, suppressed the hurrah that rose to his lips. He remembered that it was Sunday and that his mother would not approve of his making a great noise on the holy day.
He and Jessie had quite a hard tramp to the little chapel in which the school was held. The graveled sidewalks were covered with that uncomfortable mixture of snow and water known as slush, which beside being wet was cold and slippery, so that walking was no easy thing. Yet what did that matter after they had reached the school?
Their teachers were there, and so was the superintendent, and so were nearly half of the scholars. Theirs was a wide-awake school, you see, and it did not close on account of weather.
Each of the girls in Jessie's class was asked to recite a verse that she had chosen through the week. Jessie's was this:
"To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
The teacher talked a little about it and Jessie thought it over on her way to Gardener Jim's. The result was that she said to her brother:
"Tommy, you know mother said we must not trouble Jim and Phœbe."
"Yes, I know it, but I don't think we will, do you?"
"No, I'm sure they'll be glad to see us, but I was thinking we might do something to make them very glad. Suppose that while we're in there, I read to them from the Bible, and then we sing to them two or three of our hymns."
"What a queer girl you are, Jess! Anybody would think that you were a minister going to hold church in the cottage. But I'm agreed, if you want to; I like singing anyway. It seems to let off a little of the 'go' in a fellow."
By this time they had reached the cottage, and if they had been a prince and princess—supposing that such titled personages were living in these United States—they could not have had a warmer welcome. Gardener Jim opened the door in such haste that he scattered the ashes from his pipe over the rag-carpet on the floor. Phœbe, too, contrived to drop her spectacles while she was saying "How do you do," and it took at least three minutes to find them again.
At length, however, the surprise being over, the children removed their wraps, Jim refilled his pipe, and Phœbe settled herself in her chair. She was slowly revolving in her mind the question whether it would be best to offer her visitors a lunch of cookies or one of apples, when Jessie said:
"Phœbe, wouldn't you like to have me read you a chapter or two?"
So Jessie read in her sweet, clear voice the chapters beloved in palace and in cottage, about the holy city New Jerusalem, and about the pure river of water of life, clear as crystal; about the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; about the place where they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever.
"Dear me, dear me!" exclaimed Phœbe, "it seems almost like being there, doesn't it? Now I'll have something to think of to-night if I lie awake with the rheumatism."
"We're going to sing to you, too," was Tommy's rejoinder.
Then he and Jessie sang "It's coming, coming nearer, that lovely land unseen," and "O, think of the home over there" and Phoebe's favorite:
Jim wiped his eyes as they finished. He and Phœbe had once had a little boy and girl, but both had long, long been in the "better land." Yet though he wept it was in gladness, for the reading and singing had seemed to open a window through which he might look into the streets of the heavenly city.
Thus Tommy and Jessie had brought sunshine to the cottage on that rainy Sunday afternoon. They had given the cup of cold water—surely they had their reward.
"And now," said the Principal, looking keenly and pleasantly through his spectacles, "I have another prize offer to announce. Besides the prizes for the best scholarship, and the best drawing and painting, and for punctuality, I am authorized by the Trustees of this Academy to offer a prize for valor. Fifty dollars in gold will be given the student who shows the most courage and bravery during the next six months."
Fifty dollars in gold! The sum sounded immense in the ears of the boys, not one of whom had ever had five dollars for his very own at one time, that is in one lump sum. As they went home one and another wondered where the chance to show true courage was to come in their prosaic lives.
"It isn't the time when knights go round to rescue forlorn ladies and do brave deeds," said Johnny Smith, ruefully.
"No, and there never are any fires in Scott-town, or mad dogs, or anything," added Billy Thorne.
"But Sammy Slocum said nothing at all," Billy told his mother. "Old Sammy's a bit of a coward. He faints when he sees blood. Of course he knows he can't get the prize for valor, or any prize for that matter. His mother has to take in washing."
"William," said Billy's father, who had just entered, "that is a very un-American way of speaking. If I were dead and buried your mother might have to take in washing, and it would do her no discredit. Honest work is honest work. Sammy is a very straight sort of boy. He's been helping at the store Saturday mornings, and I like the boy. He's got pluck."
"Six months give a fellow time to turn round, any way," said Billy, as the family sat down to supper.
It was September when this conversation took place, and it was December before the teachers, who were watching the boys' daily records very carefully, had the least idea who would get the prize for valor.
"Perhaps we cannot award it this year," said the Principal. "Fifty dollars should not be thrown away, nor a prize really bestowed on anybody who has not merited it."
"There are chances for heroism in the simplest and most humble life," answered little Miss Riggs, the composition teacher.
That December was awfully cold. Storm and wind and snow. Blizzard and gale and hurricane. You never saw anything like it. In the middle of December the sexton was taken down with rheumatic fever, and there wasn't a soul to ring the bell, or clear away the snow, or keep fires going in the church, and not a man in the parish was willing to take the extra work upon him. The old sexton was a good deal worried, for he needed the little salary so much that he couldn't bear to give it up, and in that village church there was no money to spare.
Sammy's mother sent bowls and pitchers of gruel and other things of the sort to the sick man, and when Sammy took them he heard the talk of the sexton and his wife. One night he came home, saying:
"Mother, I've made a bargain with Mr. Anderson, I'm going to be the sexton of the church for the next three months."
"You, my boy, you're not strong enough. It's hard work shoveling snow and breaking paths, and ringing the bell, and having the church warm on Sunday, and the lamps filled and lighted. And you have your chores to do at home."
"Yes, dear mammy, I'll manage; I'll go round and get the clothes for you, and carry them home and do every single thing, just the same as ever, and I'll try to keep Mr. Anderson's place for him too."
"I don't know that I ought to let you," said his mother.
But she did consent.
Then began Sammy's trial. He never had a moment to play. Other boys could go skating on Saturday, but he had to stay around the church, and dust and sweep, and put the cushions down in the pews, and see that the old stoves were all right, as to dampers and draughts, bring coal up from the cellar, have wood split, lamps filled, wicks cut, chimneys polished. The big bell was hard to ring, hard for a fourteen-year-old boy. At first, for the fun of it, some of the other boys helped him pull the rope, but their enthusiasm soon cooled. Day in, day out, the stocky, sturdy form of Samuel might be seen, manfully plodding through all varieties of weather, and he had a good-morning or a good-evening ready for all he met. When he learned his lessons was a puzzle, but learn them he did, and nobody could complain that in anything he fell off, though his face did sometimes wear a preoccupied look, and his mother said that at night he slept like the dead and she just hated to have to call him in the morning. Through December and January and February and March, Sammy made as good a sexton as the church had ever had, and by April, Mr. Anderson was well again.
The queer thing about it all was that Sammy had forgotten the prize for valor altogether. Nothing was said about it in school, and most of the boys were so busy looking out for brave deeds to come their way, that if one had appeared, they would not have recognized it. In fact, everybody thought the prize for valor was going by the board.
Till July came. And then, when the visitors were there, and the prizes were all given out, the President looked keenly through his spectacles and said:
"Will Master Samuel Slocum step forward to the platform?"
Modestly blushing, up rose Sammy, and somewhat awkwardly he made his way to the front.
"Last winter," said the President, "there was a boy who not only did his whole duty in our midst, but denied himself for another, undertook hard work for many weeks, without pay and without shirking. We all know his name. Here he stands. To Samuel Slocum the committee award the prize for valor."
He put five shining ten-dollar pieces into Sammy's hard brown hand.
"I am troubled and low in my mind," said our mother, looking pensively out of the window. "I am really extremely anxious about the Wainwrights."
It was a dull and very chilly day in the late autumn. Fog hid the hills; wet leaves soaked into the soft ground; the trees dripped with moisture; every little while down came the rain, now a pour, then a drizzle—a depressing sort of day.
Our village of Highland, in the Ramapo, is perfectly enchanting in clear brilliant weather, and turn where you will, you catch a fine view of mountain, or valley, or brown stream, or tumbling cascade. On a snowy winter day it is divine; but in the fall, when there is mist hanging its gray pall over the landscape, or there are dark low-hanging clouds with steady pouring rain, the weather, it must be owned, is depressing in Highland. That is, if one cares about weather. Some people always rise above it, which is the better way.
I must explain mamma's interest in the Wainwrights. They are our dear friends, but not our neighbors, as they were before Dr. Wainwright went to live at Wishing-Brae, which was a family place left him by his brother; rather a tumble-down old place, but big, and with fields and meadows around it, and a great rambling garden. The Wainwrights were expecting their middle daughter, Grace, home from abroad.
Few people in Highland have ever been abroad; New York, or Chicago, or Omaha, or Denver is far enough away for most of us. But Grace Wainwright, when she was ten, had been borrowed by a childless uncle and aunt, who wanted to adopt her, and begged Dr. Wainwright, who had seven children and hardly any money, to give them one child on whom they could spend their heaps of money. But no, the doctor and Mrs. Wainwright wouldn't hear of anything except a loan, and so Grace had been lent, in all, eight years; seven she had spent at school, and one in Paris, Berlin, Florence, Venice, Rome, the Alps. Think of it, how splendid and charming!
Uncle Ralph and Aunt Hattie did not like to give her up now, but Grace, we heard, would come. She wanted to see her mother and her own kin; maybe she felt she ought.
At the Manse we had just finished prayers. Papa was going to his study. He wore his Friday-morning face—a sort of preoccupied pucker between his eyebrows, and a far-away look in his eyes. Friday is the day he finishes up his sermons for Sunday, and, as a matter of course, we never expect him to be delayed or bothered by our little concerns till he has them off his mind. Sermons in our house have the right of way.
Prayers had been shorter than usual this morning, and we had sung only two stanzas of the hymn, instead of four or five. Usually if mamma is anxious about anybody or anything, papa is all sympathy and attention. But not on a Friday. He paid no heed either to her tone or her words, but only said impressively:
"My love, please do not allow me to be disturbed in any way you can avoid between this and the luncheon hour; and keep the house as quiet as you can. I dislike being troublesome, but I've had so many interruptions this week; what with illness in the congregation, and funerals, and meetings every night, my work for Sunday is not advanced very far. Children, I rely on you all to help me," and with a patient smile, and a little wave of the hand quite characteristic, papa withdrew.
We heard him moving about in his study, which was over the sitting-room, and then there came a scrape of his chair upon the floor, and a creaking sound as he settled into it by the table. Papa was safely out of the way for the next four or five hours. I would have to be a watchdog to keep knocks from his door.
"I should think," said Amy, pertly, tossing her curls, "that when papa has so much to do he'd just go and do it, not stand here talking and wasting time. It's the same thing week after week. Such a martyr."
"Amy," said mamma, severely, "don't speak of your father in that flippant manner. Why are you lounging here so idly? Gather up the books, put this room in order, and then, with Laura's assistance, I would like you this morning to clean the china closet. Every cup and saucer and plate must be taken down and wiped separately, after being dipped into hot soap-suds and rinsed in hot water; the shelves all washed and dried, and the corners carefully gone over. See how thorough you can be, my dears," said mamma in her sweetest tones. I wondered whether she had known that Amy had planned to spend the rainy morning finishing the hand-screen she is painting for grandmother's birthday. From her looks nothing could be gathered. Mamma's blue eyes can look as unconscious of intention as a child's when she chooses to reprove, and yet does not wish to seem censorious. Amy is fifteen, and very headstrong, as indeed we all are, but even Amy never dreams of hinting that she would like to do something else than what mamma prefers when mamma arranges things in her quiet yet masterful fashion. Dear little mamma. All her daughters except Jessie are taller than herself; but mother is queen of the Manse, nevertheless.
Amy went off, having with a few deft touches set the library in order, piling the Bibles and hymn books on the little stand in the corner, and giving a pat here and a pull there to the cushions, rugs, and curtains, went pleasantly to begin her hated task of going over the china closet. Laura followed her.
Elbert, our seventeen-year-old brother, politely held open the door for the girls to pass through.
"You see, Amy dear," he said, compassionately, "what comes on reflecting upon papa. It takes some people a long while to learn wisdom."
Amy made a little moue at him.
"I don't mind particularly," she said. "Come, Lole, when a thing's to be done, the best way is to do it and not fuss nor fret. I ought not to have said that; I knew it would vex dear mamma; but papa provokes me so with his solemn directions, as if the whole house did not always hold its breath when he is in the study. Come, Lole, let's do this work as well as we can." Amy's sunshiny disposition matches her quick temper. She may say a quick word on the impulse of the moment, but she makes up for it afterward by her loving ways.
"It isn't the week for doing this closet, Amy," said Laura. "Why didn't you tell mamma so? You wanted to paint in your roses and clematis before noon, didn't you? I think it mean. Things are so contrary," and Laura sighed.
"Oh, never mind, dear! this won't be to do next week. I think mamma was displeased and spoke hastily. Mamma and I are so much alike that we understand one another. I suppose I am just the kind of girl she used to be, and I hope I'll be the kind of woman she is when I grow up. I'm imitating mother all I can."
Laura laughed. "Well, Amy, you'd never be so popular in your husband's congregation as mamma is—never. You haven't so much tact; I don't believe you'll ever have it, either."
"I haven't yet, of course; but I'd have more tact if I were a grown-up lady and married to a clergyman. I don't think, though, I'll ever marry a minister," said Amy, with grave determination, handing down a beautiful salad-bowl, which Laura received in both hands with the reverence due to a treasured possession. "It's the prettiest thing we own," said Amy, feeling the smooth satiny surface lovingly, and holding it up against her pink cheek. "Isn't it scrumptious, Laura?"
"Well," said Laura, "it's nice, but not so pretty as the tea-things which belonged to Great-aunt Judith. They are my pride. This does not compare."
"Well, perhaps not in one way, for they are family pieces, and prove we came out of the ark. But the salad-bowl is a beauty. I don't object to the care of china myself. It is ladies' work. It surprises me that people ever are willing to trust their delicate china to clumsy maids. I wouldn't if I had gems and gold like a princess, instead of being only the daughter of a poor country clergyman. I'd always wash my own nice dishes with my own fair hands."
"That shows your Southern breeding," said Laura. "Southern women always look after their china and do a good deal of the dainty part of the housekeeping. Mamma learned that when she was a little girl living in Richmond."
"'Tisn't only Southern breeding," said Amy. "Our Holland-Dutch ancestors had the same elegant ways of taking care of their property. I'm writing a paper on 'Dutch Housewifery' for the next meeting of the Granddaughters of the Revolution, and you'll find out a good many interesting points if you listen to it."
"Amy Raeburn!" exclaimed Laura, admiringly, "I expect you'll write a book one of these days."
"I certainly intend to," replied Amy, with dignity, handing down a fat Dutch cream-jug, and at the moment incautiously jarring the step-ladder, so that, cream-jug and all, she fell to the floor. Fortunately the precious pitcher escaped injury; but Amy's sleeve caught on a nail, and as she jerked it away in her fall it loosened a shelf and down crashed a whole pile of the second-best dinner plates, making a terrific noise, which startled the whole house.
Papa, in his study, groaned, and probably tore in two a closely written sheet of notes. Mamma and the girls came flying in. Amy picked herself up from the floor; there was a great red bruise and a scratch on her arm.
"Oh, you poor child!" said mother, gauging the extent of the accident with a rapid glance. "Never mind," she said, relieved; "there isn't much harm done. Those are the plates the Ladies' Aid Society in Archertown gave me the year Frances was born. I never admired them. When some things go they carry a little piece of my heart with them, but I don't mind losing donation china. Are you hurt, Amy?"
"A bruise and a scratch—nothing to signify. Here comes Lole with the arnica. I don't care in the least since I haven't wrecked any of our Colonial heirlooms. Isn't it fortunate, mother, that we haven't broken or lost anything this congregation has bestowed?"
"Yes, indeed," said mamma, gravely. "There, gather up the pieces, and get them out of the way before we have a caller."
In the Manse callers may be looked for at every possible time and season, and some of them have eyes in the backs of their heads. For instance, Miss Florence Frick or Mrs. Elbridge Geary seems to be able to see through closed doors. And there is Mrs. Cyril Bannington Barnes, who thinks us all so extravagant, and does not hesitate to notice how often we wear our best gowns, and wonders to our faces where mamma's last winter's new furs came from, and is very much astonished and quite angry that papa should insist on sending all his boys to college. But, there, this story isn't going to be a talk about papa's people. Mamma wouldn't approve of that, I am sure.
Everybody sat down comfortably in the dining-room, while Frances and Mildred took hold and helped Amy and Laura finish the closet. Everybody meant mamma, Mildred, Frances, Elbert, Lawrence, Sammy and Jessie. Somehow, a downright rainy day in autumn, with a bit of a blaze on the hearth, makes you feel like dropping into talk and staying in one place, and discussing eventful things, such as Grace Wainwright's return, and what her effect would be on her family, and what effect they would have on her.
"I really do not think Grace is in the very least bit prepared for the life she is coming to," said Frances.
"No," said mamma, "I fear not. But she is coming to her duty, and one can always do that."
"For my part," said Elbert, "I see nothing so much amiss at the Wainwrights. They're a jolly set, and go when you will, you find them having good times. Of course they are in straitened circumstances."
"And Grace has been accustomed to lavish expenditure," said Mildred.
"If she had remained in Paris, with her Uncle Ralph and Aunt Gertrude she would have escaped a good deal of hardship," said Lawrence.
"Oh," mamma broke in, impatiently, "how short-sighted you young people are! You look at everything from your own point of view. It is not of Grace I am thinking so much. I am considering her mother and the girls and her poor, worn-out father. I couldn't sleep last night, thinking of the Wainwrights. Mildred, you might send over a nut-cake and some soft custard and a glass of jelly, when it stops raining, and the last number of the "Christian Herald" and of "Harper's Monthly" might be slipped into the basket, too—that is, if you have all done with it. Papa and I have finished reading the serial and we will not want it again. There's so much to read in this house."
"I'll attend to it, mamma," said Mildred. "Now what can I do to help you before I go to my French lesson."
"Nothing, you sweetest of dears," said mother, tenderly. Mildred was her great favorite, and nobody was jealous, for we all adored our tall, fair sister.
So we scattered to our different occupations and did not meet again till luncheon was announced.
Does somebody ask which of the minister's eight children is telling this story? If you must know, I am Frances, and what I did not myself see was all told to me at the time it happened and put down in my journal.
Grace Wainwright, a slender girl, in a trim tailor-made gown, stepped off the train at Highland Station. She was pretty and distinguished looking. Nobody would have passed her without observing that. Her four trunks and a hat-box had been swung down to the platform by the baggage-master, and the few passengers who, so late in the fall, stopped at this little out-of-the-way station in the hills had all tramped homeward through the rain, or been picked up by waiting conveyances. There was no one to meet Grace, and it made her feel homesick and lonely. As she stood alone on the rough unpainted boardwalk in front of the passenger-room a sense of desolation crept into the very marrow of her bones. She couldn't understand it, this indifference on the part of her family. The ticket agent came out and was about to lock the door. He was going home to his mid-day dinner.
"I am Grace Wainwright," she said, appealing to him. "Do you not suppose some one is coming to meet me?"
"Oh, you be Dr. Wainwright's darter that's been to foreign parts, be you? Waal, miss, the doctor he can't come because he's been sent for to set Mr. Stone's brother's child's arm that he broke jumping over a fence, running away from a snake. But I guess somebody'll be along soon. Like enough your folks depended on Mr. Burden; he drives a stage, and reckons to meet passengers, and take up trunks, but he's sort o' half-baked, and he's afraid to bring his old horse out when it rains—'fraid it'll catch the rheumatiz. You better step over to my house 'long o' me; somebody'll be here in the course of an hour."
Grace's face flushed. It took all her pride to keep back a rush of angry, hurt tears. To give up Paris, and Uncle Ralph and Aunt Hattie, and her winter of music and art, and come to the woods and be treated in this way! She was amazed and indignant. But her native good sense showed her there was, there must be, some reason for what looked like neglect. Then came a tender thought of mamma. She wouldn't treat her thus.
"Did a telegram from me reach Dr. Wainwright last evening?" Grace inquired, presently.
The agent fidgeted and looked confused. Then he said coolly: "That explains the whole situation now. A dispatch did come, and I calc'lated to send it up to Wishin'-Brae by somebody passing, but nobody came along goin' in that direction, and I clean forgot it. Its too bad; but you step right over to my house and take a bite. There'll be a chance to get you home some time to-day."
At this instant, "Is this Grace Wainwright?" exclaimed a sweet, clear voice, and two arms were thrown lovingly around the tired girl. "I am Mildred Raeburn, and this is Lawrence, my brother. We were going over to your house, and may we take you? I was on an errand there for mamma. Your people didn't know just when to look for you, dear, not hearing definitely, but we all supposed you would come on the five o'clock train. Mr. Slocum, please see that Miss Wainwright's trunks are put under cover till Burden's express can be sent for them." Mildred stepped into the carryall after Grace, giving her another loving hug.
"Mildred, how dear of you to happen here at just the right moment, like an angel of light! You always did that. I remember when we were little things at school. It is ages since I was here, but nothing has changed."
"Nothing ever changes in Highland, Grace. I am sorry you see it again for the first on this wet and dismal day. But to-morrow will be beautiful, I am sure."
"Lawrence, you have grown out of my recollection," said Grace. "But we'll soon renew our acquaintance. I met your chum at Harvard, Edward Gerald at Geneva, and he drove with our party to Paris." Then, turning to Mildred, "My mother is no better, is she? Dear, patient mother! I've been away too long."
"She is no better," replied Mildred, gently, "but then she is no worse. Mrs. Wainwright will be so happy when she has her middle girl by her side again. She's never gloomy, though. It's wonderful."
They drove on silently. Mildred took keen notice of every detail of Grace's dress—the blue cloth gown and jacket, simple but modish, with an air no Highland dressmaker could achieve, for who on earth out of Paris can make anything so perfect as a Paris gown, in which a pretty girl is sure to look like a dream? The little toque on the small head was perched over braids of smooth brown hair, the gloves and boots were well-fitting, and Grace Wainwright carried herself finely. This was a girl who could walk ten miles on a stretch, ride a wheel or a horse at pleasure, drive, play tennis or golf, or do whatever else a girl of the period can. She was both strong and lovely, one saw that.
What could she do besides? Mildred, with the reins lying loosely over old Whitefoot's back, thought and wondered. There was opportunity for much at the Brae.
Lawrence and Grace chatted eagerly as the old pony climbed hills and descended valleys, till at last he paused at a rise in the path, then went on, and there, the ground dipping down like the sides of a cup, in the hollow at the bottom lay the straggling village.
"Yes," said Grace, "I remember it all. There is the post-office, and Doremus' store, and the little inn, the church with the white spire, the school-house, and the Manse. Drive faster, please, Mildred. I want to see my mother. Just around that fir grove should be the old home of Wishing-Brae."
Tears filled Grace's eyes. Her heart beat fast.
The Wainwrights' house stood at the end of a long willow-bordered lane. As the manse carryall turned into this from the road a shout was heard from the house. Presently a rush of children tearing toward the carriage, and a chorus of "Hurrah, here is Grace!" announced the delight of the younger ones at meeting their sister. Mildred drew up at the doorstep, Lawrence helped Grace out, and a fair-haired older sister kissed her and led her to the mother sitting by the window in a great wheeled chair.
The Raeburns hurried away. As they turned out of the lane they met Mr. Burden with his cart piled high with Grace's trunks.
"Where shall my boxes be carried, sister?" said Grace, a few minutes later. She was sitting softly stroking her mother's thin white hand, the mother gazing with pride and joy into the beautiful blooming face of her stranger girl, who had left her a child.
"My middle girl, my precious middle daughter," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "Miriam, Grace, and Eva, now I have you all about me, my three girls. I am a happy woman, Gracie."
"Hallo!" came up the stairs; "Burden's waiting to be paid. He says it's a dollar and a quarter. Who's got the money? There never is any money in this house."
"Hush, Robbie!" cried Miriam, looking over the railing. "The trunks will have to be brought right up here, of course. Set them into our room, and after they are unpacked we'll put them into the garret. Mother, is there any change in your pocketbook?"
"Don't trouble mamma," said Grace, waking up to the fact that there was embarrassment in meeting this trifling charge. "I have money;" and she opened her dainty purse for the purpose—a silvery alligator thing with golden clasps and her monogram on it in jewels, and took out the money needed. Her sisters and brother had a glimpse of bills and silver in that well-filled purse.
Which was very true. How should a hard-working country doctor have money to carry about when his bills were hard to collect, when anyway he never kept books, and when his family, what with feeding and clothing and schooling expenses, cost more every year than he could possibly earn? Poor Doctor Wainwright! He was growing old and bent under the load of care and expense he had to carry. While he couldn't collect his own bills, because it is unprofessional for a doctor to dun, people did not hesitate to dun him. All this day, as he drove from house to house, over the weary miles, up hill and down, there was a song in his heart. He was a sanguine man. A little bit of hope went a long way in encouraging this good doctor, and he felt sure that better days would dawn for him now that Grace had come home. A less hopeful temperament would have been apt to see rocks in the way, the girl having been so differently educated from the others, and accustomed to luxuries which they had never known. Not so her father. He saw everything in rose-color.
As Doctor Wainwright toward evening turned his horse's head homeward he was rudely stopped on a street corner by a red-faced, red-bearded man, who presented him with a bill. The man grumbled out sullenly, with a scowl on his face:
"Doctor Wainwright, I'm sorry to bother you, but this bill has been standing a long time. It will accommodate me very much if you can let me have something on account next Monday. I've got engagements to meet—pressing engagements, sir."
"I'll do my best, Potter," said the doctor. Where he was to get any money by Monday he did not know, but, as Potter said, the money was due. He thrust the bill into his coat pocket and drove on, half his pleasure in again seeing his child clouded by this encounter. Pulling his gray mustache, the world growing dark as the sun went down, the father's spirits sank to zero. He had peeped at the bill. It was larger than he had supposed, as bills are apt to be. Two hundred dollars! And he couldn't borrow, and there was nothing more to mortgage. And Grace's coming back had led him to sanction the purchase of a new piano, to be paid for by instalments. The piano had been seen going home a few days before, and every creditor the doctor had, seeing its progress, had been quick to put in his claim, reasoning very naturally that if Doctor Wainwright could afford to buy a new piano, he could equally afford to settle his old debts, and must be urged to do so.
The old mare quickened her pace as she saw her stable door ahead of her. The lines hung limp and loose in her master's hands. Under the pressure of distress about this dreadful two hundred dollars he had forgotten to be glad that Grace was again with them.
Doctor Wainwright was an easy-going as well as a hopeful sort of man, but he was an honest person, and he knew that creditors have a right to be insistent. It distressed him to drag around a load of debt. For days together the poor doctor had driven a long way round rather than to pass Potter's store on the main street, the dread of some such encounter and the shame of his position weighing heavily on his soul. It was the harder for him that he had made it a rule never to appear anxious before his wife. Mrs. Wainwright had enough to bear in being ill and in pain. The doctor braced himself and threw back his shoulders as if casting off a load, as the mare, of her own accord, stopped at the door.
The house was full of light. Merry voices overflowed in rippling speech and laughter. Out swarmed the children to meet papa, and one sweet girl kissed him over and over. "Here I am," she said, "your middle daughter, dearest. Here I am."
"Mother, darling, may I have a good long talk with you to-day, a confidential talk, we two by ourselves?"
"Yes, Grace, I shall be delighted."
"And when can it be? You always have so many around you, dear; and no wonder, this is the centre of the house, this chair, which is your throne."
"Well, let me see," said Mrs. Wainwright, considering. "After dinner the children go to Sunday-school, and papa has always a few Sunday patients whom he must visit. Between two and four I am always alone on Sunday and we can have a chat then. Mildred and Frances will probably walk home with Miriam and want to carry you off to the Manse to tea."
"Not on my first home Sunday, mamma," said Grace. "I must have every littlest bit of that here, though I do expect to have good times with the Manse girls. Is Mrs. Raeburn as sweet as ever? I remember her standing at the station and waving me good-bye when I went away with auntie, and Amy, the dearest wee fairy, was by her side."
"Amy is full of plans," said Mrs. Wainwright. "She is going to the League to study art if her mother can spare her. Mildred and Frances want to go on with their French, and one of the little boys, I forget which, has musical talent; but there is no one in Highland who can teach the piano. The Raeburn children are all clever and bright."
"They could hardly help being that, mamma, with such a father and mother, and the atmosphere of such a home."
All this time there was the hurry and bustle of Sunday morning in a large family where every one goes to church, and the time between breakfast and half-past ten is a scramble. Grace kept quietly on with the work she had that morning assumed, straightening the quilts on the invalid's chair, bringing her a new book, and setting a little vase with a few late flowers on the table by her side. Out of Grace's trunks there had been produced gifts for the whole household, and many pretty things, pictures and curios, which lent attractiveness to the parlor, grown shabby and faded with use and poverty, but still a pretty and homelike parlor, as a room which is lived in by well-bred people must always be.
"Well, when the rest have gone to Sunday-school, and papa has started on his afternoon rounds, I'll come here and take my seat, where I used to when I was a wee tot, and we'll have an old-fashioned confab. Now, if the girls have finished dressing, I'll run and get ready for church. I'm so glad all through that I can again hear one of Dr. Raeburn's helpful sermons."
Mrs. Wainwright smiled.
"To hear Frances' and Amy's chatter, one would not think that so great a privilege, Grace."
"Oh, that amounts to nothing, mamma! Let somebody else criticise their father and you'd hear another story. Ministers' families are apt to be a little less appreciative than outsiders, they are so used to the minister in all his moods. But Dr. Raeburn's "Every Morning" has been my companion book to the Bible ever since I was old enough to like and need such books, and though I was so small when I went that I remember only the music of his voice, I want to hear him preach again."
"Grace," came a call from the floor above, "you can have your turn at the basin and the looking-glass if you'll come this minute. Hurry, dear, I'm keeping Eva off by strategy. You have your hair to do and I want you to hook my collar. You must have finished in mother's room, and it's my belief you two are just chattering. Hurry, please, dear!"
"Yes, Miriam, I'm coming. But let Eva go on. It takes only a second for me to slip into my jacket. I never dress for church," she explained to her mother. "This little black gown is what I always wear on Sundays."
"I wish you could have a room of your own, daughter. It's hard after you've had independence so long to be sandwiched in between Miriam and Eva. But we could not manage another room just now." The mother looked wistful.
"I'm doing very well, mamma. Never give it a thought. Why, it's fun being with my sisters as I always used to be. Miriam is the one entitled to a separate room, if anybody could have it."
Yet she stifled a sigh as she ran up to the large, ill-appointed chamber which the three sisters used in common.
When you have had your own separate, individual room for years, with every dainty belonging that is possible for a luxurious taste to provide, it is a bit of a trial to give it up and be satisfied with a cot at one end of a long, barnlike place, with no chance for solitude, and only one mirror and one pitcher and basin to serve the needs of three persons. It can be borne, however, as every small trial in this world may, if there is a cheerful spirit and a strong, loving heart to fall back on. Besides, most things may be improved if you know how to go about the task. The chief thing is first to accept the situation, and then bravely to undertake the changing it for the better.
"Doctor," said the mother, as her husband brushed his thin gray hair in front of his chiffonier, while the merry sound of their children's voices came floating down to them through open doors, "thank the dear Lord for me in my stead when you sit in the pew to-day. I'll be with you in my thoughts. It's such a blessed thing that our little middle girl is at home with us."
The doctor sighed. That bill in his pocket was burning like fire in his soul. He was not a cent nearer meeting it than he had been on Friday, and to-morrow was but twenty-four hours off. Yesterday he had tried to borrow from a cousin, but in vain.
"I fail to see a blessing anywhere, Charlotte," he said. "Things couldn't well be worse. This is a dark bit of the road." He checked himself. Why had he saddened her? It was not his custom.
"When things are at the very worst, Jack, I've always noticed that they take a turn for the better. 'It may not be my way; it may not be thy way; but yet in His own way the Lord will provide.'" Mrs. Wainwright spoke steadily and cheerfully. Her thin cheeks flushed with feeling. Her tones were strong. Her smile was like a sunbeam. Doctor Wainwright's courage rose.
Presently the whole family, Grace walking proudly at her father's side, took their way across the fields to church.
Perhaps you may have seen lovely Sunday mornings, but I don't think there is a place in the whole world where Sunday sunshine is as clear, Sunday stillness as full of rest, Sunday flowers as fragrant, as in our hamlet among the hills, our own dear Highland. Far and near the roads wind past farms and fields, with simple, happy homes nestling under the shadow of the mountains. You hear the church bells, and their sound is soft and clear as they break the golden silence. Groups of people, rosy-cheeked children, and sturdy boys and pleasant looking men and women pass you walking to church, exchanging greetings. Carriage loads of old and young drive on, all going the same way. It makes me think of a verse in the Psalm which my old Scottish mother loved:
"Oh, Paradise! oh, Paradise!" hummed Amy Raeburn that same Sunday morning as, the last to leave the Manse, she ran after her mother and sisters. The storm of the two previous days had newly brightened the landscape. Every twig and branch shone, and the red and yellow maple leaves, the wine-color of the oak, the burnished copper of the beech, were like jewels in the sun.
"If it were not Sunday I would dance," said Amy, subduing her steps to a sober walk as she saw approaching the majestic figure of Mrs. Cyril Bannington Barnes.
"You are late, Amy Raeburn," said this lady. "Your father went to church a half-hour ago, and the bell is tolling. Young people should cultivate a habit of being punctual. This being a few minutes behind time is very reprehensible—very rep-re-hen-sible indeed, my love."
"Yes, ma'am," replied Amy, meekly, walking slowly beside the also tardy Mrs. Barnes.
"I dare say," continued Mrs. Barnes, "that you are thinking to yourself that I also am late. But, Amy, I have no duty to the parish. I am an independent woman. You are a girl, and the minister's daughter at that. You are in a very different position. I do hope, Amy Raeburn, that you will not be late another Sunday morning. Your mother is not so good a disciplinarian as I could wish."
"No, Mrs. Barnes?" said Amy, with a gentle questioning manner, which would have irritated the matron still more had their progress not now ceased on the church steps. Amy, both resentful and amused, fluttered, like an alarmed chick to the brooding mother-wing, straight to the minister's pew. Mrs. Barnes, smoothing ruffled plumes, proceeded with stately and impressive tread to her place in front of the pulpit.
Doctor Raeburn was rising to pronounce the invocation. The church was full. Amy glanced over to the Wainwright pew, and saw Grace, and smiled. Into Amy's mind stole a text she was fond of, quite as if an angel had spoken it, and she forgot that she had been ruffled the wrong way by Mrs. Cyril Bannington Barnes. This was the text:
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
"You are a hateful, wicked girl, Amy," said Amy to herself. "Why, when you have so much to make you happy, are you so easily upset by a fretful old lady, who is, after all, your friend, and would stand by you if there were need?"
Amy did not know it, but it was Grace's sweet and tranquil look that had brought the text to her mind. One of the dearest things in life is that we may do good and not know that we are doing it.
When the Sunday hush fell on the house of which Mrs. Wainwright had spoken Grace came softly tapping at the door.
"Mamma," said Grace, after a few minutes, "will you tell me plainly, if you don't mind, what is worrying papa? I don't mean generally, but what special trouble is on his mind to-day?"
"Potter's bill, I have no doubt," said the mother, quietly. "Other troubles come and go, but there is always Potter's bill in the background. And every little while it crops up and gets into the front."
"What is Potter's bill, dear mamma, and how do we come to owe it?"
"I can't fully explain to you, my child, how it comes to be so large. When Mr. Potter's father was living and carrying on the business, he used to say to your father: 'Just get all you want here, doctor; never give yourself a thought; pay when you can and what you can. We come to you for medical advice and remedies, and we'll strike a balance somehow.' The Potters have during years had very little occasion for a doctor's services, and we, with this great family, have had to have groceries, shoes, and every other thing, and Potter's bill has kept rolling up like a great snowball, bit by bit. We pay something now and then. I sold my old sideboard that came to me from my grandparents, and paid a hundred dollars on it six months ago. Old Mr. Potter died. Rufus reigns in his stead, as the Bible says, and he wants to collect his money. I do not blame him, Grace, but he torments poor papa. There are two hundred dollars due now, and papa has been trying to get money due him, and to pay Rufus fifty dollars, but he's afraid he can't raise the money."
Grace reflected. Then she asked a question. "Dear mamma, don't think me prying, but is Potter's the only pressing obligation on papa just now?"
Mrs. Wainwright hesitated. Then she answered, a little slowly, "No, Grace, there are other accounts; but Potter's is the largest."
"I ask, because I can help my father," said Grace, modestly. "Uncle Ralph deposited five hundred dollars to my credit in a New York bank on my birthday. The money is mine, to do with absolutely as I please. I have nearly fifty dollars in my trunk. Uncle and auntie have always given me money lavishly. Papa can settle Potter's account to-morrow. I'm only too thankful I have the money. To think that money can do so much toward making people happy or making them miserable! Then, mother dear, we'll go into papa's accounts and see how near I can come to relieving the present state of affairs; and if papa will consent, we'll collect his bills, and then later, I've another scheme—that is a fine, sweet-toned piano in the parlor. I mean to give lessons."
"Grace, it was an extravagance in our circumstances to get that piano, but the girls were so tired of the old one; it was worn out, a tin pan, and this is to be paid for on easy terms, so much a month."
Grace hated to have her mother to apologize in this way. She hastened to say, "I'm glad it's here, and don't think me conceited, but I've had the best instruction uncle could secure for me here, and a short course in Berlin, and now I mean to make it of some use. I believe I can get pupils."
"Not many in Highland, I fear, Grace."
"If not in Highland, in New York. Leave that to me."
Mrs. Wainwright felt as if she had been taking a tonic. To the lady living her days out in her own chamber, and unaccustomed to excitement, there was something very surprising and very stimulating too in the swift way of settling things and the fearlessness of this young girl. Though she had yielded very reluctantly to her brother's wish to keep Grace apart from her family and wholly his own for so many years, she now saw there was good in it. Her little girl had developed into a resolute, capable and strong sort of young woman, who could make use of whatever tools her education had put into her hands.
"This hasn't been quite the right kind of Sunday talk, mother," said Grace, "but I haven't been here three days without seeing there's a cloud, and I don't like to give up to clouds. I'm like the old woman who must take her broom and sweep the cobwebs out of the sky."
"God helping you, my dear, you will succeed. You have swept some cobwebs out of my sky already."
"God helping me, yes, dear. Thank you for saying that. Now don't you want me to sing to you? I'll darken your room and set the door ajar, and then I'll go to the parlor and play soft, rippling, silvery things, and sing to you, and you will fall asleep while I'm singing, and have a lovely nap before they all come home."
As Grace went down the stairs, she paused a moment at the door of the big dining-room, "large as a town hall," her father sometimes said. Everything at Wishing-Brae was of ample size—great rooms, lofty ceilings, big fire-places, broad windows.
"I missed the sideboard, the splendid old mahogany piece with its deep winy lustre, and the curious carved work. Mother must have grieved to part with it. Surely uncle and aunt couldn't have known of these straits. Well, I'm at home now, and they need somebody to manage for them. Uncle always said I had a business head. God helping me, I'll pull my people out of the slough of despond."
The young girl went into the parlor, where the amber light from the west was beginning to fall upon the old Wainwright portraits, the candelabra with their prisms pendent, and the faded cushions and rugs. Playing softly, as she had said, singing sweetly "Abide with me" and "Sun of my soul," the mother was soothed into a peaceful little half-hour of sleep, in which she dreamed that God had sent her an angel guest, whose name was Grace.
"And so you are your papa's good fairy? How happy you must be! How proud!" Amy's eyes shone as she talked to Grace, and smoothed down a fold of the pretty white alpaca gown which set off her friend's dainty beauty. The girls were in my mother's room at the Manse, and Mrs. Raeburn had left them together to talk over plans, while she went to the parlor to entertain a visitor who was engaged in getting up an autumn fête for a charitable purpose. Nothing of this kind was ever done without mother's aid.
"You must remember, dear," said mamma, when she returned from seeing Miss Gardner off, "that your purse is not exhaustless, though it is a long one for a girl. Debts have a way of eating up bank accounts; and what will you do when your money is gone if you still find that the wolf menaces the door at Wishing-Brae?"
"That is what I want to consult you about, Aunt Dorothy." (I ought to have said that our mother was Aunt Dorothy to the children at the Brae, and more beloved than many a real auntie, though one only by courtesy.) "Frances knows my ambitions," Grace went on. "I mean to be a money-maker as well as a money-spender; and I have two strings to my bow. First, I'd like to give interpretations."
The mother looked puzzled. "Interpretations?" she said. "Of what, pray?—Sanscrit or Egyptian or Greek? Are you a seeress or a witch, dear child?"
"Neither. In plain English I want to read stories and poems to my friends and to audiences—Miss Wilkins' and Mrs. Stuart's beautiful stories, and the poems of Holmes and Longfellow and others who speak to the heart. Not mere elocutionary reading, but simple reading, bringing out the author's meaning and giving people pleasure. I would charge an admission fee, and our dining-room would hold a good many; but I ought to have read somewhere else first, and to have a little background of city fame before I ask Highland neighbors to come and hear me. This is my initial plan. I could branch out."
To the mother the new idea did not at once commend itself. She knew better than we girls did how many twenty-five-cent tickets must be sold to make a good round sum in dollars. She knew the thrifty people of Highland looked long at a quarter before they parted with it for mere amusement, and still further, she doubted whether Dr. Wainwright would like the thing. But Amy clapped her hands gleefully. She thought it fine.
"You must give a studio reading," she said. "I can manage that, mother; if Miss Antoinette Drury will lend her studio, and we send out invitations for 'Music and Reading, and Tea at Five,' the prestige part will be taken care of. The only difficulty that I can see is that Grace would have to go to a lot of places and travel about uncomfortably; and then she'd need a manager. Wouldn't she, Frances?"
"I see no trouble," said I, "in her being her own manager. She would go to a new town with a letter to the pastor of the leading church, or his wife, call in at the newspaper office and get a puff; puffs are always easily secured by enterprising young women, and they help to fill up the paper besides. Then she would hire a hall and pay for it out of her profits, and the business could be easily carried forward."
"Is this the New Woman breaking her shell?" said mother. "I don't think I quite like the interpretation scheme either as Amy or as you outline it, though I am open to persuasion. Here is the doctor. Let us hear what he says."
It was not Dr. Wainwright, but my father, Dr. Raeburn, except on a Friday, the most genial of men. Amy perched herself on his knee and ran her slim fingers through his thick dark hair. To him our plans were explained, and he at once gave them his approval.
"As I understand you, Gracie," Dr. Raeburn said, "you wish this reading business as a stepping-stone. You would form classes, would you not? And your music could also be utilized. You had good instruction, I fancy, both here and over the water."
"Indeed, yes, Dr. Raeburn; and I could give lessons in music, but they wouldn't bring me in much, here at least."
"You don't call us kids, do you, papa?"
"Young ladies, then, at your service," said the doctor, with a low bow. "I've a letter from my old friend, Vernon Hastings. I'll read it to you when I can find it," said the good man, rummaging among the books, papers, and correspondence with which his great table was littered. "Judge Hastings," the doctor went on, "lost his wife in Venice a year ago. He has three little girls in need, of special advantages; he cannot bear to send them away to school, and his mother, who lives with him and orders the house, won't listen to having a resident governess. Ah, this is the letter!" The doctor read:
"I wish you could help me, Charley, in the dilemma in which I find myself. Lucy and Helen and my little Madge are to be educated, and the question is how, when, and where? They are delicate, and I cannot yet make up my mind to the desolate house I would have should they go to school. Grandmamma has pronounced against a governess, and I don't like the day-schools of the town. Now is not one of your daughters musical, and perhaps another sufficiently mistress of the elementary branches to teach these babies? I will pay liberally the right person or persons for three hours' work a day. But I must have well-bred girls, ladies, to be with my trio of bairns."
"I don't think that of you, Grace," said mother.
"I am ashamed to say it's true," said Grace.
Amy interrupted. "How far away is Judge Hastings' home, papa?"
"An hour's ride, Amy dear. No, forty minutes' ride by rail. I'll go and see him. I've no doubt he will pay you generously, Grace, for your services, if you feel that you can take up this work seriously."
"I do; I will," said Grace, "and only too thankful will I be to undertake it; but what about the multiplication table, and the straight and the curved lines, and Webster's speller?"
"Papa," said Amy, gravely, "please mention me to the judge. I will teach those midgets the arithmetic and drawing and other fundamental studies which my gifted friend fears to touch."
"You?" said papa, in surprise.
"Why not, dear?" interposed mamma. "Amy's youth is against her, but the fact is she can count and she can draw, and I am not afraid to recommend her, though she is only a chit of fifteen, as to her spelling."
"I taught school myself at sixteen," our mother went on, "and though it made me feel like twenty-six, I had no trouble with thirty boys and girls of all ages from four to eighteen. You must remember me, my love, in the old district school at Elmwood."
"Yes," said papa, "and your overpowering dignity was a sight for gods and men. All the same you were a darling."
"So she is still." And we pounced upon her in a body and devoured her with kisses, the sweet little mother.
"Papa," Amy proceeded, when order had been restored, "why not take us when you go to interview the judge? Then he can behold his future schoolma'ams, arrange terms, and settle the thing at once. I presume Grace is anxious as I am to begin her career, now that it looms up before her. I am in the mood of the youth who bore through snow and ice the banner with the strange device, 'Excelsior.'"
"In the mean time, good people," said Frances, appearing in the doorway, "luncheon is served."
We had a pretty new dish—new to us—for luncheon, and as everybody may not know how nice it is, I'll just mention it in passing.
Take large ripe tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and mix it with finely minced canned salmon, adding a tiny pinch of salt. Fill the tomatoes with this mixture, set them in a nest of crisp green lettuce leaves, and pour a mayonnaise into each ruby cup. The dish is extremely dainty and inviting, and tastes as good as it looks. It must be very cold.
"But," Doctor Raeburn said, in reply to a remark of mother's that she was pleased the girls had decided on teaching, it was so womanly and proper an employment for girls of good family, "I must insist that the 'interpretations' be not entirely dropped. I'll introduce you, my dear," he said, "when you give your first recital, and that will make it all right in the eyes of Highland."
"Thank you, doctor," said Grace. "I would rather have your sanction than anything else in the world, except papa's approval."
"Why don't your King's Daughters give Grace a boom? You are always getting up private theatricals, and this is just the right time."
"Lawrence Raeburn you are a trump!" said Amy, flying round to her brother and giving him a hug. "We'll propose it at the first meeting of the Ten, and it'll be carried by acclamation."
Walking over the fields in great haste, for when one has news to communicate, one's feet are wings, Grace was arrested by a groan as of somebody in great pain. She looked about cautiously, but it was several minutes before she found, lying under the hedge, a boy with a broken pitcher at his side. He was deadly pale, and great drops of sweat rolled down his face.
"Oh, you poor boy! What is the matter?" she cried, bending over him in great concern.
"I've broke mother's best china pitcher," said the lad, in a despairing voice.
"Poof!" replied Grace. "Pitchers can be mended or replaced. What else is wrong? You're not groaning over a broken pitcher, surely!"
"You would, if it came over in the Mayflower, and was all of your ancestors' you had left to show that you could be a Colonial Dame. Ug-gh!" The boy tried to sit up, gasped and fell back in a dead faint.
"Goodness!" said Grace; "he's broken his leg as well as his pitcher. Colonial Dames! What nonsense! Well, I can't leave him here."
She had her smelling salts in her satchel, but before she could find them, Grace's satchel being an omnium gatherum of a remarkably miscellaneous character, the lad came to. A fainting person will usually regain consciousness soon if laid out flat, with the head a little lower than the body. I've seen people persist in keeping a fainting friend in a sitting position, which is very stupid and quite cruel.
"I am Doctor Wainwright's daughter," said Grace, "and I see my father's gig turning the corner of the road. You shall have help directly. Papa will know what to do, so lie still where you are."
The lad obeyed, there plainly being nothing else to be done. In a second Doctor Wainwright, at Grace's flag of distress, a white handkerchief waving from the top of her parasol, came toward her at the mare's fastest pace.
"Hello!" he said. "Here's Archie Vanderhoven in a pickle."
"As usual, doctor," said Archie, faintly. "I've broken mother's last pitcher."
"And your leg, I see," observed the doctor, with professional directness. "Well, my boy, you must be taken home. Grace, drive home for me, and tell the boys to bring a cot here as soon as possible. Meanwhile I'll set Archie's leg. It's only a simple fracture." And the doctor from his black bag, brought out bandages and instruments. No army surgeon on the field of battle was quicker and gentler than Doctor Wainwright, whose skill was renowned all over our country-side.
"What is there about the Vanderhovens?" inquired Grace that night as they sat by the blaze of hickory logs in the cheery parlor of Wishing-Brae.
"The Vanderhovens are a decayed family," her father answered. "They were once very well off and lived in state, and from far and near gay parties were drawn at Easter and Christmas to dance under their roof. Now they are run out. This boy and his mother are the last of the line. Archie's father was drowned in the ford when we had the freshet last spring. The Ramapo, that looks so peaceful now, overflowed its banks then, and ran like a mill-race. I don't know how they manage, but Archie is kept at school, and his mother does everything from ironing white frocks for summer boarders to making jellies and preserves for people in town, who send her orders."
"Is she an educated woman?" inquired Grace.
"That she is. Mrs. Vanderhoven is not only highly educated, but very elegant and accomplished. None of her attainments, except those in the domestic line, are available, unhappily, when earning a living is in question, and she can win her bread only by these housekeeping efforts."
"Why yes, dear, you and the others not only might, but should. She will need help. I'll call and consult Mrs. Raeburn about her to-morrow. She isn't a woman one can treat like a pauper—as well born as any one in the land, and prouder than Lucifer. It's too bad Archie had to meet with this accident; but boys are fragile creatures."
And the doctor, shaking the ashes from his pipe, went off to sit with his wife before going to bed.
"I do wonder," said Grace to Eva, "what the boy was doing with the old Puritan pitcher, and why a Vanderhoven should have boasted of coming over in the Mayflower?"
Eva said: "They're Dutch and English, Grace. The Vanderhovens are from Holland, but Archie's mother was a Standish, or something of that sort, and her kinsfolk, of course, belonged to the Mayflower crowd. I believe Archie meant to sell that pitcher, and if so, no wonder he broke his leg. By-the-way, what became of the pieces?"
"I picked them up," said Grace.
"How did we ever consent to let our middle daughter stay away all these years, mother?" said Dr. Wainwright, addressing his wife.
"I cannot tell how it happened, father," she said, musingly. "I think we drifted into the arrangement, and you know each year brother was expected to bring her back Harriet would plan a jaunt or a journey which kept her away, and then, Jack, we've generally been rather out at the elbows, and I have been so helpless, that, with our large family, it was for Grace's good to let her remain where she was so well provided for."
"She's clear grit, isn't she?" said the doctor, admiringly, stalking to and fro in his wife's chamber. "I didn't half like the notion of her giving readings; but Charley Raeburn says the world moves and we must move with it, and now that her object is not purely a selfish one, I withdraw my opposition. I confess, though, darling, I don't enjoy the thought that my girls must earn money. I feel differently about the boys."
"Jack, dear," said his wife, tenderly, always careful not to wound the feelings of this unsuccessful man who was still so loving and so full of chivalry, "you needn't mind that in the very least. The girl who doesn't want to earn money for herself in these days is in the minority. Girls feel it in the air. They all fret and worry, or most of them do, until they are allowed to measure their strength and test the commercial worth of what they have acquired. You are a dear old fossil, Jack. Just look at it in this way: Suppose Mrs. Vanderhoven, brought up in the purple, taught to play a little, to embroider a little, to speak a little French—to do a little of many things and nothing well—had been given the sort of education that in her day was the right of every gentleman's son, though denied the gentleman's daughter, would her life be so hard and narrow and distressful now? Would she be reduced to taking in fine washing and hemstitching, and canning fruit?"
"Canning fruit, mother dear," said Miriam, who had just come in to procure fresh towels for the bedrooms, "is a fine occupation. Several women in the United States are making their fortunes at that. Eva and I, who haven't Grace's talents, are thinking of taking it up in earnest. I can make preserves, I rejoice to say."
"When you are ready to begin, you shall have my blessing," said her father. "I yield to the new order of things." Then as the pretty elder daughter disappeared, a sheaf of white lavender-perfumed towels over her arm, he said: "Now, dear, I perceive your point. Archie Vanderhoven's accident has, however, occurred in the very best possible time for Grace. The King's Daughters—you know what a breezy Ten they are, with our Eva and the Raeburns' Amy among them—are going to give a lift to Archie, not to his mother, who might take offence. All the local talent of our young people is already enlisted. Our big dining-room is to be the hall of ceremonies, and I believe they are to have tableaux, music, readings and refreshments. This will come off on the first moonlight night, and the proceeds will all go to Archie, to be kept, probably, as a nest-egg for his college expenses. That mother of his means him to go through college, you know, if she has to pay the fees by hard work, washing, ironing, scrubbing, what not."
"I hope the boy's worth it," said Mrs. Wainwright, doubtfully. "Few boys are."
"The right boy is," said the doctor, firmly. "In our medical association there's one fellow who is on the way to be a famous surgeon. He's fine, Jane, the most plucky, persistent man, with the eye, and the nerve, and the hand, and the delicacy and steadiness of the surgeon born in him, and confirmed by training. Some of his operations are perfectly beautiful, beautiful! He'll be famous over the whole world yet. His mother was an Irish charwoman, and she and he had a terrible tug to carry him through his studies."
"Is he good to her? Is he grateful?" asked Mrs. Wainwright, much impressed.
"Good! grateful! I should say so," said the doctor. "She lives like Queen Victoria, rides in her carriage, dresses in black silk, has four maids to wait on her. She lives like the first lady in the land, in her son's house, and he treats her like a lover. He's a man. He was worth all she did. They say," added the doctor, presently, "that sometimes the old lady tires of her splendor, sends the maids away to visit their cousins, and turns in and works for a day or two like all possessed. She's been seen hanging out blankets on a windy day in the back yard, with a face as happy as that of a child playing truant."
"Poor, dear old thing," said Mrs. Wainwright. "Well, to go back to our girlie, she's to be allowed to take her own way, isn't she, and to be as energetic and work as steadily as she likes?"
"Yes, dearest, she shall, for all I'll do or say to the contrary. And when my ship comes in I'll pay her back with interest for the loans she's made me lately."
The doctor went off to visit his patients. His step had grown light, his face had lost its look of alert yet furtive dread. He looked twenty years younger. And no wonder. He no longer had to dodge Potter at every turn, and a big package of receipted bills, endorsed and dated, lay snugly in his desk, the fear of duns exorcised thereby. A man whose path has been impeded by the thick underbrush of debts he cannot settle, and who finds his obligations cancelled, may well walk gaily along the cleared and brightened roadway, hearing birds sing and seeing blue sky beaming above his head.
The Ten took hold of the first reading with enthusiasm. Flags were borrowed, and blazing boughs of maple and oak, with festoons of crimson blackberry vine and armfuls of golden rod transformed the long room into a bower. Seats were begged and borrowed, and all the cooks in town made cake with fury and pride for the great affair. The tickets were sold without much trouble, and the girls had no end of fun in rehearsing the tableaux which were decided on as preferable in an entertainment given by the King's Daughters, because in tableaux everybody has something to do. Grace was to read from "Young Lucretia" and a poem by Hetta Lord Hayes Ward, a lovely poem about a certain St. Bridget who trudges up to heaven's gate, after her toiling years, and finds St. Peter waiting to set it wide open. The poor, modest thing was an example of Keble's lovely stanza:
Very much astonished at her reception, she is escorted up to the serene heights by tall seraphs, who treat her with the greatest reverence. By and by along comes a grand lady, one of Bridget's former employers. She just squeezes through the gate, and then,
I haven't time to tell you all about the entertainment, and there is no need. You, of course, belong to Tens or to needlework guilds or to orders of some kind, and if you are a member of the Order of the Round Table why, of course, you are doing good in some way or other, and good which enables one to combine social enjoyment and a grand frolic; and the making of a purseful of gold and silver for a crippled boy, or an aged widow, or a Sunday-school in Dakota, or a Good Will Farm in Maine, is a splendid kind of good.
This chapter is about cements and rivets. It is also about the two little schoolmarms.
"Let us take Mrs. Vanderhoven's pitcher to town when we go to call on the judge with father," said Amy. "Perhaps it can be mended."
"It may be mended, but I do not think it will hold water again."
"There is a place," said Amy, "where a patient old German frau, with the tiniest little bits of rivets that you can hardly see, and the stickiest cement you ever did see, repairs broken china. Archie was going to sell the pitcher. His mother had said he might. A lady at the hotel had promised him five dollars for it as a specimen of some old pottery or other. Then he leaped that hedge, caught his foot, fell, and that was the end of that five dollars, which was to have gone for a new lexicon and I don't know what else."
"It was a fortunate break for Archie. His leg will be as strong as ever, and we'll make fifty dollars by our show. I call such a disaster an angel in disguise."
"Mrs. Vanderhoven cried over the pitcher, though. She said it had almost broken her heart to let Archie take it out of the house, and she felt it was a judgment on her for being willing to part with it."
Judge Hastings, a tall, soldierly gentleman, with the bearing of a courtier, was delighted with the girls, and brought his three little women in their black frocks to see their new teachers.
"I warn you, young ladies," he said, "these are spoiled babies. But they will do anything for those they love, and they will surely love you. I wish them to be thoroughly taught, especially music and calisthenics. Can you teach them the latter?"
He fixed his keen, blue eyes on Grace, who colored under the glance, but answered bravely:
"Yes, Judge, I can teach them physical culture and music, too, but I won't undertake teaching them to count or to spell."
"I'll take charge of that part," said Amy, fearlessly.
Grace's salary was fixed at one thousand dollars, Amy's at five hundred, a year, and Grace was to come to her pupils three hours a day for five days every week, Amy one hour a day for five days.
"We'll travel together," said Amy, "for I'll be at the League while you are pegging away at the teaching of these tots after my hour is over."
If any girl fancies that Grace and Amy had made an easy bargain I recommend her to try the same tasks day in and day out for the weeks of a winter. She will discover that she earns her salary. Lucy, Helen and Madge taxed their young teachers' utmost powers, but they did them credit, and each month, as Grace was able to add comforts to her home, to lighten her father's burdens, to remove anxiety from her mother, she felt that she would willingly have worked harder.
The little pitcher was repaired so that you never would have known it had been broken. Mrs. Vanderhoven set it in the place of honor on top of her mantel shelf, and Archie, now able to hobble about, declared that he would treasure it for his children's children.
One morning a letter came for Grace. It was from the principal of a girls' school in a lovely village up the Hudson, a school attended by the daughters of statesmen and millionaires, but one, too, which had scholarships for bright girls who desired culture, but whose parents had very little money. To attend Miss L——'s school some girls would have given more than they could put into words; it was a certificate of good standing in society to have been graduated there, while mothers prized and girls envied those who were students at Miss L——'s for the splendid times they were sure to have.
"Your dear mother," Miss L—— wrote, "will easily recall her old schoolmate and friend. I have heard of you, Grace, through my friend, Madame Necker, who was your instructress in Paris, and I have two objects in writing. One is to secure you as a teacher in reading for an advanced class of mine. The class would meet but once a week; your office would be to read to them, interpreting the best authors, and to influence them in the choice of books adapted for young girls."
Grace held her breath. "Mother!" she exclaimed, "is Miss L—— in her right mind?"
"A very level-headed person, Grace. Read on."
"I have also a vacant scholarship, and I will let you name a friend of yours to fill it. I would like a minister's daughter. Is there any dear little twelve-year-old girl who would like to come to my school, and whose parents would like to send her, but cannot afford so much expense? Because, if there is such a child among your friends, I will give her a warm welcome. Jane Wainwright your honored mother, knows that I will be too happy thus to add a happiness to her lot in life."
Mother and daughter looked into each other's eyes. One thought was in both.
"Laura Raeburn!" they exclaimed together.
Laura Raeburn it was who entered Miss L——'s, her heart overflowing with satisfaction, and so the never-shaken friendship between Wishing-Brae and the Manse was made stronger still, as by cements and rivets.
As time went on, Grace surely did not have to share a third part of her sisters' room, did she? For nothing is so much prized by most girls as a room of their very own, and a middle daughter, particularly such a middle daughter as Grace Wainwright, has a claim to a foothold—a wee bit place, as the Scotch say—where she can shut herself in, and read her Bible, and say her prayers, and write her letters, and dream her dreams, with nobody by to see. Mrs. Wainwright had been a good deal disturbed about there being no room for Grace when she came back to Highland, and one would have been fitted up had there been an extra cent in the family exchequer. Grace didn't mind, or if she did, she made light of her sacrifice; but her sisters felt that they ought to help her to privacy.
Eva and Miriam came over to the Manse to consult us in the early days.
I suggested screens.
"You can do almost anything with screens and portieres," I said. "One of the loveliest rooms I ever saw in my life is in a cottage in the Catskills, where one large room is separated into drawing-room, library, and dining-room, and sometimes into a spare chamber, as well, by the judicious use of screens."
"Could we buy them at any price we could pay?" said Miriam.
"Buy them, child? What are you talking about? You can make them. You need only two or three clothes-horses for frames, some chintz, or even wall-paper or calico, a few small tacks, a little braid, a hammer and patience."
After Grace was fairly launched on her career as teacher, mother suggested one day that the tower-room at Wishing-Brae could be transformed into a maiden's bower without the spending of much money, and that it would make an ideal girl's room, "just the nest for Grace, to fold her wings in and sing her songs—a nest with an outlook over the tree-tops and a field of stars above it."
"Mother dear, you are too poetical and romantic for anything, but I believe," said Amy, "that it could be done, and if it could it ought."
The tower at Wishing-Brae was then a large, light garret-room, used for trunks and boxes. Many a day have I spent there writing stories when I was a child, and oh! what a prospect there was and is from those windows—prospect of moors and mountains, of ribbons of rivers and white roads leading out to the great world. You could see all Highland from the tower windows. In sunny days and in storms it was a delight beyond common just to climb the steep stairs and hide one's self there.
We put our heads together, all of us. We resolved at last that the tower-room should be our birthday gift to Grace. It was quite easy to contrive and work when she was absent, but not so easy to keep from talking about the thing in her presence. Once or twice we almost let it out, but she suspected nothing, and we glided over the danger as over ice, and hugged ourselves that we had escaped. We meant it for a surprise.
First of all, of course, the place had to be thoroughly cleaned, then whitewashed as to the ceiling, and scoured over and over as to the unpainted wood. Archie Vanderhoven and all the brothers of both families helped manfully with this, and the two dear old doctors both climbed up stairs every day, and gave us their criticism. When the cleanness and the sweetness were like the world after the deluge, we began to furnish. The floor was stained a deep dark cherry red; Mrs. Raeburn presented the room with a large rug, called an art-square; Mrs. Vanderhoven made lovely écru curtains of cheese-cloth, full and flowing, for the windows and these were caught back by cherry ribbons.
We had a regular controversy over the bed, half of us declaring for a folding bed, that could be shut up by day and be an armoire or a book-case, the others wanting a white enameled bed with brass knobs and bars. The last party carried the day.
The boys hung some shelves, and on these we arranged Grace's favorite books. Under the books in the window were her writing-table and her chair and foot-stool. The Vanderhovens sent a pair of brass andirons for the fireplace, and the little Hastings children, who were taken into the secret, contributed a pair of solid silver candlesticks.
Never was there a prettier room than that which we stood and surveyed one soft April morning when it was pronounced finished. Our one regret was that dear Mrs. Wainwright could not see it. But the oldest of the Raeburn boys brought over his camera and took a picture of the room, and this was afterwards enlarged and framed for one of Mrs. Wainwright's own birthdays.
"Mother dear," said Grace one evening, as they sat together for a twilight talk, "do you believe God always answers prayers?"
"Always, my child."
"The answers do not always come at once, Grace, nor are they always what we expect, but God sends us what is best for us, and He gives us strength to help answer the prayers we make. Sometimes prayers are answered before they leave our lips. Don't you know that in every 'Oh, my Father,' is the answer, 'Here, my child?'"
"I used to long, years ago," said Grace, "when I was as happy as I could be with dear uncle and auntie, just to fly to you and my father. It seemed sometimes as if I would die just to get home to Highland again, and be one of the children. Uncle and auntie want me to go abroad with them this summer, just for a visit, and they are so good they will take one of my sisters and one of the Raeburns; but I hate to think of the ocean between you and me again even for a few weeks."
"You must go, dearie," said Mrs. Wainwright. "The dear uncle is part owner of you, darling, and he's very generous; but he can never have you back to keep."
"Which of the Raeburns do you suppose they can best spare?"
"I'd like Frances myself."
"Frances is the stay-at-home daughter. She cannot be spared. It will be Amy, and I will let Miriam go with you, and Eva, who is the youngest, can wait for her turn some other day."
"Is that Burden's cart going down the lane?" inquired Grace, looking out of the window. "It's queer how many errands Mr. Burden's had here lately. I believe he's been investing in another cart, or else he has painted the old one. Business must be brisk. There come papa, and Dr. Raeburn with him. Why, mother, all the Raeburns are coming! If there is to be company, I might have been told."
"So might I," said Mrs. Wainwright, with spirit. "Hurry, Grace, bring me some cologne and water to wash my face and hands, and give me my rose-pink wrapper. Turn the key in the door, dearie. An invalid should never be seen except looking her best. You can slip away and get into a tea gown before you meet them, if they are coming to supper. Whose birthday is it? This seems to be a surprise party."
"Why, mamma—it's my birthday; but you don't think there's anything on foot that I don't know of—do you, dearest?"
"I wouldn't like to say what I think, my pet. There, the coast is clear. Run away and change your gown. Whoever wished to see me now may do so. The queen is ready to give audience. Just wheel my chair a little to the left, so that I can catch the last of that soft pink after-glow."
"And were you really entirely unprepared, Grace," said the girls later, "and didn't you ever for a single moment notice anything whatsoever we were doing?"
"Never for one instant. I missed my Tennyson and my French Bible, but thought Eva had borrowed them, and in my wildest imagination I never dreamed you would furnish a lovely big room at the top of the house all for me, my own lone self. It doesn't seem right for me to accept it."
"Ah, but it is quite right!" said her father, tenderly, "and here is something else—a little birthday check from me to my daughter. Since you came home and set me on my feet I've prospered as never before. Eva has collected ever so many of my bills, and I've sold a corner of the meadow for a good round sum, a corner that never seemed to me to be worth anything. I need not stay always in your debt, financially, dear little woman."
"Your father is right, Grace," said the sweet low tones of Mrs. Wainwright, even and firm. "Through God's goodness you have had the means and disposition to help him, but neither of us ever intended to rest our weight always on your shoulders. You needn't work so hard hereafter, unless you wish, to."
"Thank you, dear papa," said Grace. "I shall work just as hard, because I love to work, and because I am thus returning to the world some part of what I owe it; and next year, who knows, I may be able to pay Eva's bills at Miss L——'s."
Eva jumped up and down with delight.
Then came supper, served in Mrs. Wainwright's room, and after that music and a long merry talk, and at last, lest Mrs. Wainwright should be weary, the Raeburns took their way homeward over the lane and across the fields to the Manse.
Grace from the tower window watched them going, the light of the moon falling in golden clearness over the fields and farms just waiting for spring,
she whispered to herself. "Good-night, dear ones all, good-night," she said a little later climbing up the tower stair to her new room.
"God bless you, middle daughter," said her father's deep tones.
Soft, hushed footsteps pattered after the girl, step by step. She thought herself all alone as she shut the door, but presently a cold nose was thrust against her hand, a furry head rubbed her knee. Fido, the pet fox-terrier, had determined for his part to share the tower-room.
In times gone by there was a king who had at the back of his castle a beautiful pleasure garden, in which stood a tree that bore golden apples. As the apples ripened they were counted, but one morning one was missing. Then the king was angry, and he ordered that a watch should be kept about the tree every night. Now the king had three sons, and he sent the eldest to spend the whole night in the garden; so he watched till midnight, and then he could keep off sleep no longer, and in the morning another apple was missing. The second son had to watch the following night; but it fared no better, for when twelve o'clock had struck he went to sleep, and in the morning another apple was missing. Now came the turn of the third son to watch, and he was ready to do so; but the king had less trust in him, and believed he would acquit himself still worse than his brothers, but in the end he consented to let him try. So the young man lay down under the tree to watch, and resolved that sleep should not be master. When it struck twelve something came rushing through the air, and he saw in the moonlight a bird flying towards him, whose feathers glittered like gold. The bird perched upon the tree, and had already pecked off an apple, when the young man let fly an arrow at it. The bird flew away, but the arrow had struck its plumage, and one of its golden feathers fell to the ground; the young man picked it up, and taking it next morning to the king, told him what had happened in the night. The king called his council together, and all declared that such a feather was worth more than the whole kingdom.
"Since the feather is so valuable," said the king, "one is not enough for me; I must and will have the whole bird."
So the eldest son set off, and, relying on his own cleverness, he thought he should soon find the golden bird. When he had gone some distance he saw a fox sitting at the edge of a wood and he pointed his gun at him. The fox cried out:
"Do not shoot me and I will give you good counsel. You are on your way to find the golden bird, and this evening you will come to a village in which two taverns stand facing each other. One will be brightly lighted up, and there will be plenty of merriment going on inside; do not mind about that, but go into the other one, although it will look to you very uninviting."
"How can a silly beast give anyone rational advice?" thought the king's son, and let fly at the fox, but he missed him, and he stretched out his tail and ran quick into the wood. Then the young man went on his way, and toward evening he came to the village and there stood the two taverns; in one singing and revelry were going on, the other looked quite dull and wretched. "I should be a fool," said he, "to go into that dismal place while there is anything so good close by." So he went into the merry inn and there lived in clover, quite forgetting the bird and his father and all good counsel.
As time went on, and the eldest son never came home, the second son set out to seek the golden bird. He met with the fox, just as the eldest did, and received good advice from him without attending to it. And when he came to the two taverns his brother was standing and calling to him at the window of one of them, out of which came sounds of merriment; so he could not resist, but went and reveled to his heart's content.
And then, as time went on, the youngest son wished to go forth and to try his luck, but his father would not consent.
"It would be useless," said he; "he is much less likely to find the bird than his brothers, and if any misfortune were to happen to him he would not know how to help himself, his wits are none of the best."
But at last, as there was no peace to be had, he let him go. By the side of the wood sat the fox, begged him to spare his life and gave him good counsel. The young man was kind and said:
"Be easy, little fox, I will do you no harm."
"You shall not repent of it," answered the fox, "and that you may get there all the sooner get up and sit on my tail."
And no sooner had he done so than the fox began to run, and off they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled in their hair. When they reached the village the young man got down and, following the fox's advice, went into the mean looking tavern without hesitating, and there he passed a quiet night. The next morning, when he went out into the field, the fox, who was sitting there already, said:
"I will tell you further what you have to do. Go straight on until you come to a castle, before which a great band of soldiers lie, but do not trouble yourself about them, for they will be all asleep and snoring; pass through them and forward into the castle, and go through all the rooms until you come to one where there is a golden bird hanging in a wooden cage. Near at hand will stand empty a golden cage of state, but you must beware of taking the bird out of his ugly cage and putting him into the fine one; if you do so you will come to harm."
After he had finished saying this the fox stretched out his tail again, and the king's son sat him down upon it; then away they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled through their hair. And when the king's son reached the castle he found everything as the fox had said; and he at last entered the room where the golden bird was hanging in a wooden cage, while a golden one was standing by; the three golden apples, too, were in the room. Then, thinking it foolish to let the beautiful bird stay in that mean and ugly cage, he opened the door of it, took hold of it and put it in the golden one. In the same moment the bird uttered a piercing cry. The soldiers awaked, rushed in, seized the king's son and put him in prison. The next morning he was brought before a judge, and, as he confessed everything, condemned to death. But the king said that he would spare his life on one condition, that he should bring him the golden horse whose paces were swifter than the wind, and that then he should also receive the golden bird as a reward.
"Now, you see," said the fox, "all this has happened because you would not listen to me. But be of good courage, I will bring you through, and will tell you how to get the golden horse. You must go straight on until you come to a castle, where the horse stands in his stable; before the stable-door the grooms will be lying, but they will all be asleep and snoring, and you can go and quietly lead out the horse. But one thing you must mind—take care to put upon him the plain saddle of wood and leather, and not the golden one, which will hang close by, otherwise it will go badly with you."
Then the fox stretched out his tail and the king's son seated himself upon it, and away they went over stock and stone until the wind whistled through their hair. And everything happened just as the fox had said, and he came to the stall where the golden horse was, and as he was about to put on him the plain saddle he thought to himself:
"Such a beautiful animal would be disgraced were I not to put on him the good saddle, which becomes him so well."
However, no sooner did the horse feel the golden saddle touch him than he began to neigh. And the grooms all awoke, seized the king's son and threw him into prison. The next morning he was delivered up to justice and condemned to death, but the king promised him his life, and also to bestow upon him the golden horse if he could convey thither the beautiful princess of the golden castle.
With a heavy heart the king's son set out, but by great good luck he soon met with the faithful fox.
"I ought now to leave you to your own fate," said the fox, "but I am sorry for you, and will once more help you in your need. Your way lies straight up to the golden castle. You will arrive there in the evening, and at night, when all is quiet, the beautiful princess goes to the bath. And as she is entering the bathing-house go up to her and give her a kiss, then she will follow you and you can lead her away; but do not suffer her first to go and take leave of her parents, or it will go ill with you."
Then the fox stretched out his tail, the king's son seated himself upon it, and away they went over stock and stone, so that the wind whistled through their hair. And when he came to the golden castle all was as the fox had said. He waited until midnight, when all lay in deep sleep, and then as the beautiful princess went to the bathing-house he went up to her and gave her a kiss, and she willingly promised to go with him, but she begged him earnestly, and with tears, that he would let her first go and take leave of her parents. At first he denied her prayer, but as she wept so much the more, and fell at his feet, he gave in at last. And no sooner had the princess reached her father's bedside than he, and all who were in the castle, waked up and the young man was seized and thrown into prison.
The next morning the king said to him:
"Thy life is forfeit, but thou shalt find grace if thou canst level that mountain that lies before my windows, and over which I am not able to see; and if this is done within eight days thou shalt have my daughter for a reward."
So the king's son set to work and dug and shoveled away without ceasing, but when, on the seventh day, he saw how little he had accomplished, and that all his work was as nothing, he fell into great sadness and gave up all hope. But on the evening of the seventh day the fox appeared and said:
"You do not deserve that I should help you, but go now and lie down to sleep and I will do the work for you."
The next morning when he awoke and looked out of the window the mountain had disappeared. The young man hastened full of joy to the king and told him that his behest was fulfilled, and, whether the king liked it or not, he had to keep his word and let his daughter go.
"Well, you have got the best first," said he, "but you must know that the golden horse belongs to the princess of the golden castle."
"But how shall I get it?" asked the young man.
"I am going to tell you," answered the fox. "First, go to the king who sent you to the golden castle and take to him the beautiful princess. There will then be very great rejoicing. He will willingly give you the golden horse, and they will lead him out to you; then mount him without delay and stretch out your hand to each of them to take leave, and last of all to the princess, and when you have her by the hand swing her upon the horse behind you and off you go! Nobody will be able to overtake you, for that horse goes swifter than the wind."
And so it was all happily done, and the king's son carried off the beautiful princess on the golden horse. The fox did not stay behind, and he said to the young man:
"Now, I will help you to get the golden bird. When you draw near the castle where the bird is let the lady alight, and I will take her under my care; then you must ride the golden horse into the castle yard, and there will be great rejoicing to see it, and they will bring out to you the golden bird; as soon as you have the cage in your hand you must start off back to us, and then you shall carry the lady away."
The plan was successfully carried out, and when the young man returned with the treasure the fox said:
"Now, what will you give me for my reward?"
"What would you like?" asked the young man.
"When we are passing through the wood I desire that you should slay me, and cut my head and feet off."
"That were a strange sign of gratitude," said the king's son, "and I could not possibly do such a thing."
Then said the fox:
"If you will not do it, I must leave you; but before I go let me give you some good advice. Beware of two things; buy no gallows-meat, and sit at no brookside." With that the fox ran off into the wood.
The young man thought to himself, "that is a wonderful animal, with most singular ideas. How should any one buy gallows-meat? and I am sure I have no particular fancy for sitting by a brookside."
So he rode on with the beautiful princess, and their way led them through the village where his two brothers had stayed. There they heard great outcry and noise, and when he asked what it was all about, they told him that two people were going to be hanged. And when he drew near he saw that it was his two brothers, who had done all sorts of evil tricks, and had wasted all their goods. He asked if there were no means of setting them free.
"Oh, yes! if you will buy them off," answered the people; "but why should you spend your money in redeeming such worthless men?"
But he persisted in doing so; and when they were let go they all went on their journey together.
After a while they came to the wood where the fox had met them first, and there it seemed so cool and sheltered from the sun's burning rays that the two brothers said:
"Let us rest here for a little by the brook, and eat and drink to refresh ourselves."
The young man consented, quite forgetting the fox's warning, and he seated himself by the brookside, suspecting no evil. But the two brothers thrust him backwards into the brook, seized the princess, the horse, and the bird, and went home to their father.
"Is not this the golden bird that we bring?" said they; "and we have also the golden horse, and the princess of the golden castle."
The youngest brother, however, had not perished. The brook was by good fortune dry, and he fell on the soft moss without receiving any hurt, but he could not get up again. But in his need the faithful fox was not lacking; he came up running and reproached him for having forgotten his advice.
"But I cannot forsake you all the same," said he. "I will help you back again into daylight." So he told the young man to grasp his tail and hold on to it fast, and so he drew him up again.
"Still you are not quite out of all danger," said the fox; "your brothers, not being certain of your death, have surrounded the woods with sentinels, who are to put you to death if you let yourself be seen."
A poor beggar-man was sitting by the path and the young man changed clothes with him, and went clad in that wise into the king's courtyard. Nobody knew him, but the bird began to chirp, and the horse began to feed, and the beautiful princess ceased weeping.
"What does this mean?" said the king, astonished.
The princess answered:
Then she told him all that happened, although the two brothers had threatened to put her to death if she betrayed any of their secrets. The king then ordered every person who was in the castle to be brought before him, and with the rest came the young man like a beggar in his wretched garments; but the princess knew him and greeted him lovingly, falling on his neck and kissing him. The wicked brothers were seized and put to death, and the youngest brother was married to the princess and succeeded to the inheritance of his father.
But what became of the poor fox? Long afterward the king's son was going through the wood and the fox met him and said:
"Now, you have everything that you can wish for, but my misfortunes never come to an end, and it lies in your power to free me from them." And once more he prayed the king's son earnestly to slay him and cut off his head and feet. So at last he consented, and no sooner was it done than the fox was changed into a man, and was no other than the brother of the beautiful princess; and thus he was set free from a spell that had bound him for a long, long time.
And now, indeed, there lacked nothing to their happiness as long as they lived.
 This is a fairy tale, pure and simple, but we must have a little nonsense now and then, and it does us no harm, but on the contrary much good.
"He that hath clean hands and a pure heart."
Harry Pemberton went down the street whistling a merry tune. It was one I like very much, and you all know it, for it has been played by street bands and organs, and heard on every street corner for as many years as you boys have been living on the earth. "Wait till the clouds roll by, Jenny, wait till the clouds roll by." The lads I am writing this story for are between ten and fourteen years old, and they know that the clouds do once in a while roll around a person's path, and block the way, because fogs and mists can block the way just as well as a big black stone wall.
At the corner of the street a red-headed, blue-eyed lad, a head taller than Harry, joined the latter. He put his hand on Harry's shoulder and walked beside him.
"Well," said this last comer, whose name was Frank Fletcher, "will your mother let you go, Harry, boy? I hope she doesn't object."
"Of all things, where can the harm be? Only none of the rest of us have to ask leave, as you do."
"Mother," said Harry, disregarding this speech, "is of the opinion that to enter a man's garden by the back gate, when the family are all away, is breaking into his premises and going where you haven't a right, and is burglary, and if you take flowers or anything, then it's stealing. Mere vulgar stealing, she says."
"Why, Harry Pemberton, how dare you say stealing to me?" And Frank's red hair stood up like a fiery flame.
"I'm only quoting mother. Don't get mad, Frank."
"Does your mother know it's to decorate the soldiers' graves that we want the flowers, and that Squire Eliot won't be home till next year, and there are hundreds 'n hundreds of flowers fading and wasting and dying on his lawn and garden, and furthermore that he'd like the fellows to decorate the cemetery with his flowers? Does she know that, I say?" and the blue-eyed lad gesticulated fiercely.
"All is," replied Harry, firmly, "that you boys can go ahead if you like, but mother won't let me, and you must count me out."
"All is," said Frank, mimicking Harry's tone, "you're a mother-boy, and we fellows won't have anything more to do with you." So they sent him to Coventry, which means that they let him alone severely. They had begun to do it already, which was why he whistled so merrily to show he did not mind.
I never for my part could see that there was any disgrace in being a mother-boy. But I suppose a boy thinks he is called babyish, if the name is fastened on him. As Harry went on his errand, he no longer whistled, at least he didn't whistle much. And as he went to school next day, and next day, and next day, and found himself left out in the cold, he would have been more than the usual twelve-year-old laddie if he had not felt his courage fail. But he had his motto text to bolster him up.
"Clean hands, Harry, and a pure heart," said Mrs. Pemberton, cheerfully. "It cannot be right to steal flowers or anything else even to decorate the graves of our brave soldiers."
And so the time passed—kite time, top time, hoop time, marble time.
It was the evening before Memorial Day, at last.
There was a good deal of stirring in the village. It was splendid moonlight. You could see to read large print. A whole crowd of boys met at the store and took their way across lots to the beautiful old Eliot place. The big house, with its broad porch and white columns, stood out in the glory of the moon. The gardens were sweet in the dew. Violets, lilies, roses, lilacs, snow-drops, whole beds of them.
Every boy, and there were ten of them, had a basket and a pair of shears. They meant to get all the flowers they could carry and despoil the Eliot place, if necessary, to make the cemetery a grand looking spot to-morrow, when the veterans and the militia should be out with bands of music and flying flags, and the Governor, no less, coming in person to review the troops and make a speech in the very place where his own father was buried.
In went the boys. Over the stile, up the paths, clear on toward the front portico. They separated into little groups and began to cut their flowers, the Eliots' flowers, all the Eliots in Europe, and not a soul on hand to save their property.
Suddenly the boys were arrested and paralyzed with fright.
An immense form leaped from behind the house and a deep-throated, baying bark resounded in a threatening roar. Juno, Squire Eliot's famous mastiff, the one that had taken a prize at the dog show, bounded out toward the marauders. They turned to fly, when a stern voice bade them stop.
"You young rapscallions! You trespassers! You rascals! Stop this instant or I'll thrash every one of you! Humph!" said Squire Eliot, brandishing his cane, as the boys stopped and tremblingly came forward. "This is how my neighbors' sons treat my property when I'm away. Line up there against the fence, every one of you. Charge, Juno! Charge, good dog!"
Squire Eliot looked keenly at the boys, every one of whom he knew.
"Solomon's methods are out of fashion," he said, "and if I send you boys home the chances are that your fathers won't whip you as you deserve to be whipped, so I'll do the job myself. Fortunate thing I happened to change my plans and come home for the summer, instead of going away as I expected. I heard there was a plan of this sort on foot, but I didn't believe it till I overheard the whole thing talked of in the village this afternoon. Well, boys, I'll settle with you once for all, and then I'll forgive you, but you've got to pay the penalty first. Frank, hold out your hand."
But just then there was an interruption. Lights appeared in the windows and a dainty little lady came upon the scene. The boys knew Grandmother Eliot, who wore her seventy years with right queenly grace, and never failed to have a kind word for man, woman and child in the old home.
"Eugene," she called to the Squire, imperatively, "I can't allow this, my son. The boys have been punished enough. Their fault was in not seeing that you cannot do evil that good may come. Let every one of these young gentlemen come here to me. I want to talk with them."
Now it is probable that most of the boys would have preferred a sharp blow or two from the Squire's cane to a reproof from his gentle old mother, whose creed led her to heap coals of fire on the heads of those who did wrong. But they had no choice. There was no help for it. They had to go up, shears, baskets and all, and let old Lady Eliot talk to them; and then, as they were going away, who should come out but a white-capped maid, with cake and lemonade, to treat the young depredators to refreshments.
"There's only one fellow in our class who deserves cake and lemonade," exclaimed Frank, "and he isn't here. We've all treated him meaner than dirt. We've been horrid to him, because he wouldn't join us in this. Now he's out of this scrape and we're in."
"Harry Pemberton," said Squire Eliot, who had locked up his cane, and was quite calm, "Harry Pemberton, that's Lida Scott's boy, mother. Lida would bring him up well, I'm sure. Well, he shall have a lot of roses to-morrow to lay on Colonel Pemberton's grave. Isn't that fair, boys?"
"Yes, yes," assented they all, with eagerness.
"And as you have by your own admission treated Harry rather badly, suppose you make it up to him by coming here in the morning, carrying the roses to his house, and owning that you regret your behavior."
It was rather a bitter pill, but the boys swallowed it bravely.
Next day, as Harry and his mother, laden with dog-wood boughs and branches of lilac, set out for the little spot most sacred to them on earth, they met a procession which was headed by Frank Fletcher. The procession had a drum and a flag, and it had roses galore.
"Honest roses, Harry," said Frank. "The Squire is at home and he gave them to us for you. Let me tell you about it."
The story was told from beginning to end. Then Mrs. Pemberton said, "Now, boys, take for your everlasting motto from this time forth, 'Clean hands and a pure heart.'"
The first cat of our recollection was a large, sleek, black and white animal, the pet and plaything of our very early childhood. Tom, as we called him, seemed much attached to us all, but when we moved from the house of his kittendom and attempted to keep him with us, we found that we had reckoned without our host; all our efforts were in vain; the cat returned to its former home and we gave it up as lost to us.
The months sped along and we children had almost forgotten our late favorite, when one day he came mewing into the yard, and in so pitiable a condition that all our hearts were moved for him. He was in an emaciated state distressing to behold, and then one of his hind legs was broken so that the bone protruded through the skin. The dear old cat was at once fed, but it was soon seen that his injury was incurable, and our truly humane father said the only thing to do with Tom was to put him out of his misery. This was done, but we have ever kept in mind the cat that would not go from its first home, even with those it loved, and yet remembered those friends and came to them in trouble. I should have stated above, that the two homes were less than a mile apart.
Morris was another black and white cat, named Morris from our minister, who gave him to brother. He was a fine fellow, and would jump a bar four feet from the floor. But brother obtained a pair of tiny squirrels, the striped squirrels, and feared that Morris would catch them, for he was all alert when he spied them, and so the cat was sent to the house of a friend, as this friend wished to possess him. Morris was let out of the basket in which he was carried into our friend's kitchen, and giving one frightened look at his surroundings he sprang up the chimney and was never seen by any of his early friends again. Poor Morris, we never knew his fate!
One cat we named Snowball, just because he was so black. This cat was an unprincipled thief, and all unknown to us a person who disliked cats in general, and thieving cats in particular, killed Snowball.
We once owned an old cat and her daughter, and when the mother had several kittens and the daughter had but one, the grandmother stole the daughter's kitten, and though the young mother cried piteously she never regained possession of her child. Again, once when our brother was ploughing he overturned a rabbit's nest, and taking the young rabbits therefrom he gave them to the cat, who had just been robbed of her kittens. Pussy was at once devoted to these babies, and cared for them tenderly, never for a moment neglecting them. Nevertheless, they died, one by one; their foster mother's care was not the kind they needed.
Of all our cats we speak most tenderly of Friskie. She was brought when a kitten to our farm home, and if ever cat deserved eulogy it was she. A small cat with black coat and white breast and legs, not particularly handsome, but thoroughly good and very intelligent. The children played with her as they would; she was never known to scratch them, but would show her disapproval of any rough handling by a tap with her tiny velvet paw. She was too kind to scratch them.
Friskie grew up with Trip, our little black and tan dog, and though Trip was selfish with her, Friskie loved him and showed her affection in various ways. If the dog came into the house wet with dew or rain the dear little cat would carefully dry him all off with her tongue, and though he growled at her for her officiousness she would persevere till the task was accomplished, and then the two would curl up behind the stove and together take a nap.
When we became the owner of a canary, Friskie at once showed feline propensities; she wanted that bird, and saw no reason why she should be denied it. But when, from various tokens, Friskie learned that we valued it, she never again evinced any desire for the canary. And when, afterward, we raised a nest of birdlings, the little cat never attempted to touch them; no, not even when one flew out of doors and alighted almost at her feet. Instead of seizing it, Friskie watched us as we captured and returned it to the cage.
The writer of this story became ill with extreme prostration, and now Friskie showed her affection in a surprising manner. Each morning she came into our room with a tidbit, such as she was sure was toothsome: Mice, rats, at one time a half-grown rabbit, and, at length, a bird.
It was warm weather, the room windows were open, and being upon the first floor, when Friskie brought in her offerings they were seized and thrown from the window to the ground. At this she would spring after the delicacy and bring it back in a hurry, determined that it should be eaten, mewing and coaxing just as she might with her kittens. That the food was not accepted evidently distressed her. When she came with the little bird, she uttered her usual coaxing sound, and then, when it was unheeded, she sprung upon the bed and was about to give it to the invalid, who uttered a scream of fright. At this dear Friskie fled from the room and, we think, she never brought another treat. It was useless to try to treat a person so unappreciative.
At one time, when Friskie was the proud mother of four pretty kittens, she was greatly troubled with the liberties that young Herbert, aged three, took with her family. The little boy didn't want to hurt the tiny creatures, but he would hold them and play with them.
Mother cat bore this for a time, and then carried the kittens away to the barn, and hid them where no one but herself could find them.
While these babies were yet young Herbert was taken away for a visit. Strange to say, that upon the morning of the child's departure Friskie came leading the little ones down to the house. They could walk now, and at first she came part of the distance with three of them, stopped, surveyed her group and went back for the remaining kitten. All we have told is strictly true; it was evident that the cat knew when the disturber of her peace was gone, and also evident that she knew how many were her children.
Friskie died at the age of twelve, the most lovable and intelligent cat we have ever known.
Of late we have had two maltese cats in our kitchen, one old, the other young. The old cat has been jealous and cross with the young one, while the young cat has been kind and pleasant with her companion. One day the young cat, Friskie's namesake, sat and meowed piteously. We were present, and for a time did not notice her, for she is very demonstrative. What was our surprise to see her go to a low closet in the room and lie down, stretch her paws over her head, and by an effort pull open the door to release the old cat, who had accidentally been shut up in this closet.
The old cat is always very reticent, and would not ask to be let out. Her usual way of asking to have a door open is to tap upon it with her paw. She scarcely ever meows.
We might have enlarged upon these incidents, but have simply told facts.
Sunday-school was dismissed and the children were going, some in one direction, some in another, to their homes. The majority of them were chatting merrily of the proposed strawberry festival, but one little fellow seemed to be engrossed with more serious thoughts. He was alone and apparently unconscious of the nearness of his companions until a lad about his own age joined him and inquired, "Say, Ralph, what are you thinking of? You look as wise as an owl."
"I should hope I was a little bit wiser than a bird," answered Ralph, with a smile. "But I was just awondering, Ned, if I could be brave enough to go into the lion's den like Daniel did. I wouldn't like to stop praying to God, but it would be pretty hard to make up your mind to face a lot of lions."
"Yes, indeed; but then father says that we don't need grace to do those hard things until we are called upon to do them, and then if we ask God, He will give us the strength we require. All we've got to do is to attend to the duty nearest us, and seek for strength for that."
Ned was the minister's son and had enjoyed many an instructive talk with his kind father.
"He says, too, that we are often called upon to face other kinds of lions in this life, if we persist as we ought in doing the right. But here we part, Ralph, good-bye," and the boy turned off into a side road, leaving Ralph again alone.
Ralph's way led through a quiet country lane, for his home was beyond the village where nearly all of his companions lived.
"Well, I won't have to go into the lion's den to-day," he said to himself, as he sauntered along; "and when I do I guess God will give me the strength," and with this thought a gayer frame of mind came to him. "But it must be grand to be a Daniel."
Just then two large boys crept stealthily from the bushes that lined one side of the road and looked anxiously around. "Say, John, there's Ralph," one of them muttered. "He'll tell we didn't go to Sunday-school. Let's frighten him into promising not to."
"Hello!" cried John, in a loud voice.
Ralph turned and was surprised to see his brothers approaching him.
"Going home?" one of them asked.
"Why, yes, Tom, ain't you?"
Ralph's eyes opened wide in astonishment. "But you didn't go to Sunday-school," he replied, "because your teacher came and asked me where you were, and I told her I didn't know; I thought you were coming."
"Well, it isn't any of your business whether we went or not," growled John. "All you've got to do is to say we were there if you're asked."
"I can't tell a lie about it, can I?"
"Yes, you can, if you just make up your mind to do it."
"But I won't tell a lie about it," said Ralph, sturdily.
"No, I suppose you'd rather get your brothers in a scrape. You know what will happen if we're found out."
Ralph hesitated. He was an affectionate child and disliked to see anybody in trouble, especially his own brothers, but he had a very decided opinion that he was in the right, and therefore concluded to speak the truth at all hazards.
"I'm just as sorry as I can be," he returned, sadly, "and I'll beg papa to forgive you and say I know you won't ever do it again, but if they ask me I can't tell a lie about it."
Ralph was too young to realize that this was only an idle threat, and he was very much frightened, yet in that moment of terror the thought of Daniel in the lion's den flashed through his mind and gave him the strength that he had not dared to hope for. He saw in an instant that he had come to his temptation and his den of lions, and he felt that as God had protected Daniel in that far-away time, He would now protect him. Ralph had never learned to swim, and he was in fear of the big frogs and other creatures that inhabit ponds, but he did not flinch. With a boldness that surprised even himself, he looked steadily at his brother and replied, "You cannot frighten me into doing that wrong thing. I will not pray to the image of falsehood that you have set up."
It was now his brothers' turn to be astonished. They had never thought of Ralph as anything but a timid, little boy who could be overcome by the slightest threat, and for a moment they were at a loss what to say. Of course, Ralph was merely repeating some of his teacher's words, but they were not aware of that fact, and consequently wondered at his remarks. Finally John managed to stammer, "Do—do you want to go in that pond?"
Turning away, John was about to walk off, but Tom detained him. "Wait a moment, John," he said, and then the others noticed that there were tears in his eyes. "I want to tell my brave little brother that I honor him for sticking to the truth. As for me, I shall confess to father, and promise not to repeat the offence."
"I am with you," John replied. "Come Ralph, we'll go together now and hereafter. We need never be afraid to go where a Daniel leads."
There was once a sweet little maid, much beloved by everybody, but most of all by her grandmother, who never knew how to make enough of her. Once she sent her a little cap of red velvet, and as it was very becoming to her, and she never wore anything else, people called her Little Redcap. One day her mother said to her:
"Come, Little Redcap, here are some cakes and a flask of milk for you to take to your grandmother; she is weak and ill, and they will do her good. Make haste and start before it grows hot, and walk properly and nicely, and don't run, or you might fall and break the flask of milk and there would be none left for grandmother. And when you go into her room, don't forget to say, 'Good morning' instead of staring about you."
"I will be sure to take care," said Little Redcap to her mother, and gave her hand upon it. Now the grandmother lived away in the wood, half an hour's walk from the village, and when Little Redcap had reached the wood, she met the wolf; but as she did not know what a bad sort of animal he was, she did not feel frightened.
"Good day, Little Redcap," said he.
"Thank you kindly, Wolf," answered she.
"Where are you going so early, Little Redcap?"
"To my grandmother's."
"What are you carrying under your apron?"
"Cakes and milk; we baked yesterday; and my grandmother is very weak and ill, so they will do her good, and strengthen her."
"Where does your grandmother live, Little Redcap?"
"A quarter of an hour's walk from here; her house stands beneath the three oak trees, and you may know it by the hazel bushes," said Little Redcap. The wolf thought to himself:
"That tender young thing would be a delicious morsel, and would taste better than the old one; I must manage somehow to get both of them."
Then he walked beside little Redcap for a little while, and said to her softly and sweetly:
"Little Redcap, just look at the pretty flowers that are growing all round you, and I don't think you are listening to the song of the birds; you are posting along just as if you were going to school, and it is so delightful out here in the wood."
Little Redcap glanced round her, and when she saw the sunbeams darting here and there through the trees, and lovely flowers everywhere, she thought to herself:
"If I were to take a fresh nosegay to my grandmother, she would be very pleased, and it is so early in the day that I shall reach her in plenty of time;" and so she ran about in the wood, looking for flowers. And as she picked one she saw a still prettier one a little farther off, and so she went farther and farther into the wood. But the wolf went straight to the grandmother's house and knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" cried the grandmother.
"Little Redcap," he answered, "and I have brought you some cake and some new milk. Please open the door."
"Lift the latch," cried the poor old grandmother, feebly; "I am too weak to get up."
So the wolf lifted the latch, and the door flew open, and he fell on the grandmother and ate her up without saying one word. Then he drew on her clothes, put on her cap, lay down in her bed and drew the curtains, the old wretch that he was.
Little Redcap was all this time running about among the flowers, and when she had gathered as many as she could hold; she remembered her grandmother, and set off to go to her. She was surprised to find the door standing wide open, and when she came inside she felt very strange and thought to herself:
"Oh, dear, how uncomfortable I feel, and I was so glad this morning to go to my grandmother!"
And when she said "Good morning!" there was no answer. Then she went up to the bed and drew back the curtains; there lay the grandmother with her cap pulled over her eyes, so that she looked very odd.
"Oh, grandmother, what large ears you have got!"
"The better to hear you with."
"Oh, grandmother, what great eyes you have got!"
"The better to see you with."
"Oh, grandmother, what large hands you have got!"
"The better to take hold of you with, my dear."
"But, grandmother, what a terrible large mouth you have got!"
"The better to devour you!" And no sooner had the wolf said this than he made one bound from the bed and swallowed up poor Little Redcap.
"How the old lady snores—I would better see if there is anything the matter with her."
Then he went into the room and walked up to the bed, and saw the wolf lying there.
"At last I find you, you old sinner!" said he; "I have been looking for you for a long time." And he made up his mind that the wolf had swallowed the grandmother whole, and that she might yet be saved. So he did not fire, but took a pair of shears and began to slit up the wolf's body. When he made a few snips Little Redcap appeared, and after a few more snips she jumped out and cried, "Oh, dear, how frightened I have been, it is so dark inside the wolf!"
And then out came the old grandmother, still living and breathing. But Little Redcap went and quickly fetched some large stones, with which she filled the wolf's body, so that when he waked up, and was going to rush away, the stones were so heavy that he sank down and fell dead.
They were all three very much pleased. The huntsman took off the wolf's skin and carried it home to make a fur rug. The grandmother ate the cakes and drank the milk and held up her head again, and Little Redcap said to herself that she would never again stray about in the wood alone, but would mind what her mother told her, nor talk to strangers.
It must also be related how a few days afterward, when Little Redcap was again taking cakes to her grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and wanted to tempt her to leave the path; but she was on her guard, and went straight on her way, and told her grandmother how that the wolf had met her and wished her good-day, but had looked so wicked about the eyes that she thought if it had not been on the high road he would have devoured her.
"Come," said the grandmother, "we will shut the door, so that he may not get in."
Soon after came the wolf knocking at the door, and calling out, "Open the door, grandmother, I am Little Redcap, bringing you cakes." But they remained still and did not open the door. After that the wolf slunk by the house, and got at last upon the roof to wait until Little Redcap should return home in the evening; then he meant to spring down upon her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother discovered his plot. Now, there stood before the house a great stone trough, and the grandmother said to the child: "Little Redcap, I was boiling sausages yesterday, so take the bucket and carry away the water they were boiled in and pour it into the trough."
And Little Redcap did so until the great trough was quite full. When the smell of the sausages reached the nose of the wolf he snuffed it up and looked around, and stretched out his neck so far that he lost his balance and began to slip, and he slipped down off the roof straight in the great trough and was drowned. Then Little Redcap went cheerfully home and came to no harm.
 Every boy and girl should read this pretty fairy story.
New Zealand children are pretty, dark-eyed, smooth-cheeked little creatures, with clear skins of burnt umber color, and the reddest mouths in the world, until the girl grows up and her mother tattooes her lips blue, for gentility's sake.
All day they live in the open air, unless during a violent storm. But they are perfectly healthy and very clean, for the first thing they do is to plunge into the sea water. Besides this, they take baths in warm springs that abound everywhere, and which keep their skins in good order. As to their breakfast, I am afraid that often they have some very unpleasant things to eat—stale shark, for instance, and sour corn bread—so sour that you could not swallow it, and boiled fern root, or the pulp of fern stems, or crawfish.
Even if their father had happened to cut down a tall palm the day before, in order to take what white people call the "palm cabbage" out of it's very top, I'm afraid he would not share this dainty with the children. I am not sure he would offer even their mother a bite. It would be literally a bite if he did, for when people get together to eat in New Zealand, one takes a piece of something from the basket in which food is served, bites out a mouthful and hands it to the next, who does the same, and passes it to his neighbor, and so on until it is all gone, and some other morsel is begun upon.
Sixty or seventy years ago New Zealanders had never seen a pig or any animal larger than a cat. But about that time, one Captain King, feeling that a nation without pork and beans and succotash could never come to any good, brought them some Indian corn and some beans, and taught them how to plant and cultivate them, and shortly sent them some fine pigs, not doubting but that they would understand what to do with them without instruction.
However, the New Zealanders had no idea what the pigs were sent for, and everybody asked everybody else about it, until one—the smart fellow who knows it all—said that he had heard all about them from a sailor, and that they were horses! Oh, certainly they were horses! The sailor had described them perfectly—long heads, pointed ears, broad backs, four legs, and a tail. They were to ride upon. Great chiefs always rode them where the sailors lived.
So the New Zealand chiefs mounted the pigs, and when Captain King came to see how everything was going on, they had ridden them to death—all but a few obstinate ones, who had eaten up the maize as soon as it grew green, and finished up the beans by way of dessert before the vines were halfway up the poles.
Captain King did not despair, however. He took two natives home with him, taught them all about the cultivation of maize, and the rearing of pigs; and pork is now as popular in New Zealand as it is in Cincinnati. You can hardly take a walk without meeting a mother-pig and a lot of squealing piglets; and people pet them more than they ever did or ever will in their native lands. Here, you know, when baby wants something to play with, some one finds him a kitten, a ball of white floss, or a little Maltese, or a black morsel with green eyes and a red mouth; but in New Zealand they give him a very, very young pig, smooth as a kid glove, with little slits of eyes, and his curly tail twisted up into a little tight knot; and the brown baby hauls it about and pulls its ears and goes to sleep hugging it fast; and there they lie together, the piglet grunting comfortably, the baby snoring softly, for hours at a time.
It is pleasanter to think of a piggy as a pet than as pork, and pleasanter still to know that the little New Zealanders have something really nice to eat—the finest sweet potatoes that grow anywhere.
They say that sweet potatoes, which they call kumere, is the food good spirits eat, and they sing a song about them, and so do the mothers, which is very pretty. The song tells how, long ago, Ezi-Ki and his wife, Ko Paui, sailing on the water in a boat, were wrecked, and would have been drowned but for good New Zealanders, who rescued them. And Ko Paui saw that the children had very little that was wholesome for them to eat, and showed her gratitude by returning, all by herself, to Tawai, to bring them seeds of the kumere. And how storms arose and she was in danger, but at last arrived in New Zealand safely and taught them how to plant and raise this excellent food. And every verse of the song ends with: "Praise the memory of beautiful Ko Paui, wife of Ezi-Ki, forever."
Little New Zealanders run about with very little on, as a general thing, but they all have cloaks—they call them "mats." Their mother sits on the ground with a little weaving frame about two feet high before her, and makes them of what is called New Zealand flax. The long threads hang down in rows of fringes, one over the other, and shine like silk. They have also water-proofs, or "rain-mats," made of long polished leaves that shed the water. When a little New Zealand girl pulls this over her head she does not mind any shower. You may see a circle of these funny objects sitting in the pelting rain, talking to each other and looking just like tiny haystacks.
New Zealand children have, strange to say, many toys. They swim like ducks, and, as I have said, revel in the natural hot baths, where they will sit and talk by the hour. In fact, the life of a New Zealand child is full of occupation, and both girls and boys are bright, light-hearted, and intelligent.
A stiff Sea Breeze was having the wildest, merriest time, rocking the sailboats and fluttering the sails, chasing the breakers far up the beach, sending the fleecy cloudsails scudding across the blue ocean above, making old ocean roar with delight at its mad pranks, while all the little wavelets dimpled with laughter; the Cedar family on the shore, old and rheumatic as they were, laughed till their sides ached, and the children shouted and cheered upon the beach. How fresh and strong and life-giving it was. The children wondered why it was so jolly, but never guessed the reason; and its song was so wonderfully sweet, but only the waves understood the words of the wild, strange melody.
"I have come," it sang, "from a land far across the water. My home was on the mountain top, high up among the clouds. Such a white, white world as it was! The mountain peak hooded in snow-ermine, and the gray-white clouds floating all around me; and it was so very still; my voice, the only sound to be heard, and that was strange and muffled. But though the fluffy clouds were so silent, they were gay companions and full of fun; let them find me napping once, and, puff! Down they would send the feathery snow, choking and blinding me, then would come a wild chase; once in a mad frolic my breath parted the clouds and I saw down the mountain side! Never shall I forget the picture I saw that day, framed by the silvery clouds. I, who had known nothing but that pale stillness and bitter cold, for the first time saw life and color, and a shimmering, golden light, resting on tree and river and valley farm; do you wonder I forgot the mountain peak, the clouds—everything that was behind, and, without even a last farewell, spread my wings and flew swiftly down the mountain side? Very soon I was far below that snowy cloud world, with a bright blue sky above me, and patches of red gravel and green moss and gray lichens beneath. Once I stopped to rest upon a great rock, moss-covered, and with curling ferns at its base; from its side flowed a crystal spring, so clear and cool that I caught up all I could carry to refresh me on my journey; but it assured me I need not take that trouble, for it was also on its way down the mountain side.
"'But you have no wings,' I said. 'Are you sure of that?' answered the spring, and I thought she looked up in an odd way at some of my cloud friends, who had followed in my track; then she added: 'And, even if you are right, there is more than one way to reach the foot of the mountain; I am sure you will find me there before you.'
"I could not but doubt this, for I am swifter than any bird of the air, but she only laughed at me as I flew on, and once, looking back, I saw she had started on her journey, and was creeping slowly along a tiny thread of water, almost hidden in the grass. I next floated upon some dark green trees, that sent out a spicy odor as I touched their boughs, and when I moved they sang a low, tuneful melody; their song was of the snowy mountain peak, the clouds, the bubbling spring, the sunshine and the green grass; yes, and there was something else, a deep undertone that I did not then understand, and the melody was a loom that wove them all into a living harmony; some of my breezes are there still, listening to the Pine Trees' song; but I hurried on, the grass grew green and luscious along my way, and the sheep, with their baby lambs, were pastured upon it; rills and brooks joined hands, and went racing faster and faster down between the rocks; one of the brooks had grown quite wide and deep, and as it leaped and sparkled and sang its way into the valley, where it flowed into a wide, foaming stream, it looked back with a gay laugh, and I saw in its depths the face of the little spring I had left far up the mountain side.
"It was summer in the valley, and the air was scented with roses and ripening fruits. It was very warm and sultry, and I fanned the children's faces until they laughed and clapped their hands, crying out: 'It's the breeze from the mountain peak! How fresh and sweet and cool it is.'
"I rocked the baby-birds to sleep in their leafy cradles. I entered the houses, making the curtains flutter, and filling the rooms with my mountain perfume. I longed to stay forever in that beautiful summer land, but now the mountain stream beckoned me on. Swiftly I flew along its banks, turning the windmills met on the way, and swelling out the sails of the boats until the sailors sang for joy. On and on we journeyed; my mountain friend, joined by a hundred meadow-brooks, grew deeper and wider as it flowed along, and its breath began to have a queer, salty odor. One day I heard a throbbing music far off that sounded like the undertone in the Pine Trees' melody; then very soon we reached this great body of water, and, looking across, could see no sign of land anywhere; but still we journeyed on. I feared at first that my friend was lost to me, but often she laughed from the crest of the wave, or glistened in a white cap, cheering my way to this sunny shore; and now, at last, we are here, laden with treasure for each one of you. Take it, and be glad!"
But the children did not understand the song of the Sea Breeze, nor did they know what made its breath so wonderfully sweet. But all day long they breathed in its fragrance, and gathered up the treasures brought to their feet by the tiny spring born up in the clouds.
"It's a beautiful world," they cried.
And at night, when the Sea Breeze was wakeful, and sang to the waves of the mountain peak, the children would lift their heads from the white pillows to listen, whispering softly to one another:
"Hear the Sea Breeze and the ocean moaning on the shore. Are they lonely without us, I wonder?"
[When I was a child I used to love the story which is coming next. It is very funny and I like it still.]
There was once an ass whose master had made him carry sacks to the mill for many a long year, but whose strength began at last to fail, so that each day as it came found him less capable of work. Then his master began to think of turning him out, but the ass, guessing that something was in the wind that boded him no good, ran away, taking the road to Bremen; for there he thought he might get an engagement as town musician. When he had gone a little way he found a hound lying by the side of the road panting, as if he had run a long way.
"Now, Holdfast, what are you so out of breath about!" said the ass.
"Oh, dear!" said the dog, "now I am old, I get weaker every day, and can do no good in the hunt, so, as my master was going to have me killed, I have made my escape; but now, how am I to gain my living?"
The dog consented, and they walked on together. It was not long before they came to a cat sitting in the road, looking as dismal as three wet days.
"Now, then, what is the matter with you, old friend?" said the ass.
"I should like to know who would be cheerful when his neck is in danger?" answered the cat. "Now that I am old, my teeth are getting blunt, and I would rather sit by the oven and purr than run about after mice, and my mistress wants to drown me; so I took myself off; but good advice is scarce, and I do not know what is to become of me."
"Go with us to Bremen," said the ass, "and become town musician. You understand serenading."
The cat thought well of the idea, and went with them accordingly. After that the three travelers passed by a yard, and a cock was perched on the gate crowing with all his might.
"Your cries are enough to pierce bone and marrow," said the ass; "what is the matter?"
"I have foretold good weather for Lady-day, so that all the shirts may be washed and dried; and now on Sunday morning company is coming, and the mistress has told the cook that I must be made into soup, and this evening my neck is to be wrung, so that I am crowing with all my might while I can."
"You had better go with us, Chanticleer," said the ass. "We are going to Bremen. At any rate that will be better than dying. You have a powerful voice, and when we are all performing together it will have a very good effect."
So the cock consented, and they went on, all four together.
But Bremen was too far off to be reached in one day, and toward evening they came to a wood, where they determined to pass the night. The ass and the dog lay down under a large tree; the cat got up among the branches, and the cock flew up to the top, as that was the safest place for him. Before he went to sleep he looked all around him to the four points of the compass, and perceived in the distance a little light shining, and he called out to his companions that there must be a house not far off, as he could see a light, so the ass said:
"We had better get up and go there, for these are uncomfortable quarters."
The dog began to fancy a few bones, not quite bare, would do him good. And they all set off in the direction of the light, and it grew larger and brighter until at last it led them to a robber's house, all lighted up. The ass, being the biggest, went up to the window and looked in.
"Well, what do you see?" asked the dog.
"What do I see?" answered the ass; "here is a table set out with splendid eatables and drinkables, and robbers sitting at it and making themselves very comfortable."
"That would just suit us," said the cock.
"Yes, indeed, I wish we were there," said the ass. Then they consulted together how it should be managed so as to get the robbers out of the house, and at last they hit on a plan. The ass was to place his forefeet on the window-sill, the dog was to get on the ass' back, the cat on the top of the dog, and lastly the cock was to fly up and perch on the cat's head. When that was done, at a given signal, they all began to perform their music. The ass brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed, and the cock crowed; then they burst through into the room, breaking all the panes of glass. The robbers fled at the dreadful sound; they thought it was some goblin, and fled to the wood in the utmost terror. Then the four companions sat down to the table, and made free with the remains of the meal, and feasted as if they had been hungry for a month. And when they had finished they put out the lights, and each sought out a sleeping-place to suit his nature and habits. The ass laid himself down outside on the dunghill, the dog behind the door, the cat on the hearth by the warm ashes, and the cock settled himself in the cockloft, and as they were all tired with their long journey they soon fell fast asleep.
When midnight drew near, and the robbers from afar saw that no light was burning, and that everything appeared quiet, their captain said to them that he thought that they had run away without reason, telling one of them to go and reconnoitre. So one of them went and found everything quite quiet; he went into the kitchen to strike a light, and taking the glowing fiery eyes of the cat for burning coals, he held a match to them in order to kindle it. But the cat, not seeing the joke, flew into his face, spitting and scratching. Then he cried out in terror, and ran to get out at the back door, but the dog, who was lying there, ran at him and bit his leg; and as he was rushing through the yard by the dunghill the ass struck out and gave him a great kick with his hindfoot; and the cock, who had been awakened with the noise, and felt quite brisk, cried out, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
Then the robber got back as well as he could to his captain, and said, "Oh dear! in that house there is a gruesome witch, and I felt her breath and her long nails in my face; and by the door there stands a man who stabbed me in the leg with a knife, and in the yard there lies a black spectre, who beat me with his wooden club; and above, upon the roof, there sits the justice, who cried, 'bring that rogue here!' And so I ran away from the place as fast as I could."
From that time forward the robbers never returned to that house, and the four Bremen town musicians found themselves so well off where they were, that there they stayed. And the person who last related this tale is still living, as you see.
An Italian poet named Ariosto, who lived before our grandfathers were born, has told some very funny stories, one of which I will tell you. Not contented with mounting his heroes on ordinary horses, he gave one of them a splendid winged creature to ride; a fiery steed with eyes of flame, and the great pinions of an eagle. This creature's name was Hippogrif. Let me tell you how Prince Roger caught the Hippogrif, and then you will want to know something about his queer journey. I may as well tell you that Prince Roger belonged to the Saracens, and that he loved a lady of France named Bradamante, also that an old enchanter had captured both the prince and the lady and gotten them into his power. They of course were planning a way of escape, and hoped to go off together, and be married, and live happily ever after, but this was not the intention of their captor. The two prisoners, who were allowed a good deal of liberty, were standing together one day, when Bradamante said to Roger:
"Look! there is the old man's Hippogrif still standing quietly by us. I have a mind to catch him and take a ride on him, for he is mine by right of conquest since I have overcome his master." So she went toward the winged steed and stretched out her hand to take him by the bridle; but the Hippogrif darted up into the air, and flew a hundred yards or so away before he settled again upon the ground. Again and again she tried to catch him, but he always flew off before she could touch him, and then came down to earth a little distance away, where he waited for her to get near him again, just as you may see a butterfly flit from one cabbage-row to another, and always manage to keep a yard or two ahead of the boy who chases it. At last, however, he alighted close by the side of Roger, whereupon the Prince cried to his lady: "I will catch him and give him a ride to break him in for you;" and, seizing hold of the bridle in his left hand, he vaulted on to the back of the Hippogrif, who stood still without attempting to escape, as if to acknowledge that here he had found his proper master. But the Prince was no sooner fairly in the saddle than his strange steed shot up fifty feet straight into the air, and, taking the bit between his teeth, with a dozen flaps of his mighty wings carried his unwilling rider far away over the mountains and out of sight of the unfortunate Bradamante.
You must know that though Roger was quite unable to hold his Hippogrif, and soon gave up the attempt in despair, the winged monster was really guided by something stronger than bit or bridle, and every motion of his headlong flight was controlled by the will of an invisible master. The whole affair, in fact, was the work of the wonderful enchanter Atlas, who was still persuaded that great dangers awaited his beloved Prince in the land of France, and determined to use all his cunning to remove him to a place of safety. With this design he had watched the noble lovers from his hiding place, and guided every movement of the Hippogrif by the mere muttering of spells; and by the same means he still steered the creature's course through the air, for he was so powerful an enchanter that he could make his purpose take effect from one end of the earth to the other. In the old days of fairy lore, enchanters were very numerous, and always found plenty to do.
Roger had a firm seat and a heart that knew no fear, and at any other time would have enjoyed nothing better than such an exciting adventure; but now he was terribly vexed at being separated again from his beloved Bradamante, and at being carried away from the land where Agramant his King and the Emperor Charlemagne were mustering all their forces for the great struggle. However, there was no help for it, for the Hippogrif flew through the air at such a pace that he soon left the realms of Europe far behind him, and after a flight of a few hours he had carried the Prince half round the globe. Roger in fact found himself hovering over the Fortunate Islands, which lie in the far Eastern seas beyond the shores of India. Here he checked his course, and descended in wide circles to the earth, and at length alighted on the largest and most beautiful island of all the group. Green meadows and rich fields were here watered by clear streams; and lovely groves of palm and myrtle, cedar and banyan, spread their thick shade over the gentle slopes of hill, and offered a refuge from the heat of the mid-day sun. Birds of paradise flashed like jewels in the blazing light, and modest brown nightingales sang their sweet refrain to the conceited parrots, who sat admiring themselves among the branches; while under the trees hares and rabbits frisked merrily about, and stately stags led their graceful does to drink at the river banks. Upon this fertile tract, which stretched down to the very brink of the sea, the Hippogrif descended; and his feet no sooner touched the ground than Prince Roger leaped from his back, and made fast his bridle to the stem of a spreading myrtle-bush. Then he took off his helmet and cuirass, and went to bathe his face and hands in the cool waters of the brook; for his pulses were throbbing from his swift ride, and he wanted nothing so much as an hour or two of repose. Such rapid flying through the air is very wearying.
Could he have retained his wonderful horse, there is no knowing what splendid adventures might have befallen him, but at a critical moment, the Hippogrif vanished, and Prince Roger had to fare as best he could on foot. After a time he met Bradamante again, he left the Saracen religion and became a Christian, and he and Bradamante were united in wedlock. He had formerly been a heathen.
Bradamante had a cousin named Astulf, who finally by a series of events became the owner of the winged steed, and on this animal he made the queerest trip ever heard of, a journey to the Mountains of the Moon. The Hippogrif soared up and up, and up, till tall palms looked like bunches of fern beneath him, and he penetrated belts of thick white clouds, and finally drew his bridle rein on summits laid out in lovely gardens, where flowers and fruit abounded, and the climate was soft and balmy as that of June. The traveler walked through a fine grove, in the centre of which rose a stately palace of the purest ivory, large enough to shelter a nation of kings within its walls, and ornamented throughout with carving more exquisite than that of an Indian casket.
While Astulf was gazing on this scene of splendor he was approached by a man of noble and courteous aspect, dressed in the toga of an ancient Roman, and bound about the brows with a laurel chaplet, who gave him grave and kindly salutation, saying: "Hail, noble Sir Duke, and marvel not that I know who you are, or that I expected you to-day in these gardens. For this is the Earthly Paradise, where poets have their dwelling after death; and I am the Mantuan Virgil, who sang the deeds of Æneas, and was the friend of the wise Emperor Augustus. But if you wish to know the reason of your coming hither, it is appointed for you to get back the lost wits of the peerless Count Roland, whose senses have been put away in the moon among the rest of the earth's missing rubbish. Now the mountains on the top of which we stand are called the Mountains of the Moon, because they are the only place from which an ascent to the moon is possible; and this very night I intend to guide you thither on your errand. But first, I pray you, take your dinner with us in our palace, for you have need of refreshment to prepare you for so strange a journey." I need hardly tell you that Astulf was delighted at being chosen to go to the moon on so worthy a mission, and thanked the noble poet a thousand times for his courtesy and kindness. But Virgil answered: "It is a pleasure to be of any service to such valiant warriors as Count Roland and yourself;" and thereupon he took the Duke through the shady alleys to the ivory palace which stood in the midst of the garden.
Here was Astulf conducted with much ceremony to a refectory where a banquet was spread. The great doors were thrown open, and the company of poets ranged themselves in two rows, while their King passed down between their ranks. He was a majestic old man with curly beard and hair, and his broad forehead was furrowed with lines that betokened a life of noble thought; but alas! he was totally blind, and leaned upon the shoulder of a beautiful Greek youth who guided him. Every head was bowed reverently as he passed, and Virgil whispered to his guest: "That is Homer, the Father and King of poets."
At the end of the refectory was a dais with a table at which Homer took his seat, while another long table stretched down the middle of the hall; but Astulf saw with surprise that three places were laid on the upper board, though the King was apparently to sit there alone. But Virgil explained the reason, and said: "You must understand, Sir Duke, that it is our custom to lay a place for every poet who will ever ascend to this Earthly Paradise; and as yet there is none here worthy to sit beside our Father Homer. But after some five hundred and fifty years the seat at his left hand will be taken by the Florentine Dante, who will find here the rest and happiness denied to him in his lifetime. The place on the right of the King, however, will remain vacant three hundred years more; but then it will be filled by a countryman of your own, and Shakespeare will receive the honor due to him as the third great poet of the world." With these words Virgil took his seat at the head of the lower table, and motioned Astulf to an empty place at his right hand, saying: "This seat also will remain a long while vacant, being kept for another of your countrymen, who will come hither after more than a thousand years. He will be reviled and slandered in his lifetime; but after his death the very fools who abused him will pretend to admire and understand him, while here among his brethren he will be welcomed with joy and high honor." So Astulf sat in the seat of this poet to be honored in the future, and made a hearty dinner off nectar and ambrosia, "which are mighty fine viands," as he afterward told his friends at home; "but a hungry man, on the whole, would prefer good roast beef and a slice of plum pudding for a steady diet." Dinner being over, the pilgrim was led by the obliging poet to a pathway past the silent and lonesome River of Oblivion, where most mortal names and fames are forever lost, only a few being rescued from its waves and set on golden scrolls in the temple of Immortality.
Now when they had looked on for a while at this notable sight they left the River Oblivion and proceeded to the Valley of Lost Lumber. It was a long though narrow valley shut in between two lofty mountain ridges, and in it were stored away all the things which men lose or waste on earth. Here they found an infinite number of lovers' sighs, beyond which lay the useless moments lost in folly and crime, and the long wasted leisure of ignorant and idle men. Next came the vain desires and foolish wishes that can never take effect, and these were heaped together in such quantities that they blocked up the greater part of the valley. Here, too, were mountains of gold and silver which foolish politicians throw away in bribing voters to return them to Congress; a little farther on was an enormous pile of garlands with steel gins concealed among their flowers, which Virgil explained to be flatteries; while a heap of grasshoppers which had burst themselves in keeping up their shrill, monotonous chirp, represented, he said, the dedications and addresses which servile authors used to write in praise of unworthy patrons. In the middle of the valley lay a great pool of spilt broth, and this signified the alms which rich men are too selfish to give away in their lifetime but bequeath to charities in their wills, to be paid out of money they can no longer use. Next Astulf came upon numbers of beautiful dolls from Paris, which little girls throw aside because they prefer their dear old bundles of rags with beads for eyes; and one of the biggest hillocks in all the place was formed of a pile of knives lost out of careless schoolboys' pockets.
Now, when Astulf grew old and had boys and girls of his own, they used to clamber on his knee in the twilight and ask for a story, and oh! how they wished for the Hippogrif. Sometimes the old knight said that the Hippogrif was dead, but I have known people to shut their eyes and climb on his back, and cling to his mane, and go flying over the ocean and the hills clear through to the other end of the world. For Hippogrif is only a name for Fancy, and the Valley of Lost Lumber and the River of Oblivion and the Temple of Immortality exist for every one of us.
Such a forlorn little sunbonnet bobbing here and there among the bean poles in the garden back of Mr. Mason's house! It seemed as if the blue gingham ruffles and the deep cape must know something about the troubled little face they hid away, for they hung in a limp fashion that was enough to tell anybody who saw them just how badly the wearer of the sunbonnet was feeling. She had, as she thought, more than her share of toil and trouble in this busy world, and to-day she had a specially good reason to carry a heavy heart in her little breast.
All Morningside was in a perfect flutter of anticipation and excitement. There had never been a lawn party in the little village before, and Effie Dean, twelve years old to-day, was to have a lawn party, to which every child for miles, to say nothing of a gay troop of cousins and friends from the city, had been invited. Everybody was going, of course.
The Deans had taken for the season a beautiful old homestead, the owners of which were in Europe. They were having gala times there, and they managed to draw all the young folks of the village in to share them. All, indeed, except one little girl. Cynthia Mason did not expect to go to many festivities, but with her whole heart she longed to see what a lawn party might be. The very name sounded beautiful to her, and she said it over and over wistfully as she went slowly down the door-yard between the tigerlilies and the hollyhocks, through the rough gate which hung so clumsily on its leathern hinges, and, with her basket by her side, began her daily task of picking beans.
Cynthia Mason had no mother. Her father loved his little daughter and was kind to her, but he was a silent man, who was not very successful, and who had lost hope when his wife had died. People said he had never been the same man since then. His sister, Cynthia's Aunt Kate, was an active, stirring woman, who liked to be busy herself and to hurry other people. She kept the house as clean as a new pin, had the meals ready to the moment, and saw that everybody's clothing was washed and mended; but she never felt as if she had time for the kissing and petting which is to some of us as needful as our daily food.
In her way she was fond of Cynthia, and would have taken good care of the child if she had been ill or crippled. But as her niece was perfectly well, and not in want of salts or senna, Aunt Kate was often rather tried with her fondness for dreaming in the daytime, or dropping down to read a bit from the newspaper in the midst of the sweeping and dusting.
There were, in truth, a good many worries in the little weather-beaten house, and Miss Mason had her own trouble in making both ends meet. She was taking summer boarders now to help along, and when Cynthia had asked her if she might go to Effie's party, the busy woman had been planning how to crowd another family from New York into the already well-filled abode, so she had curtly replied:
"Go to a lawn party! What nonsense! Why, no child. You cannot be spared." And she had thought no more about it.
"Step around quickly this morning, Cynthy," she called from the buttery window. "Beans take for ever and ever to cook, you know. I can't imagine what's got into the child," she said to herself. "She walks as if her feet were shod with lead."
The blue gingham sunbonnet kept on bobbing up and down among the bean poles, when suddenly there was a rush and a rustle, two arms were thrown around Cynthia's waist, and a merry voice said:
"You never heard me, did you, till I was close by? You're going to the party, of course, Cynthy?"
"I never heard of such a thing!" cried eleven-year old Lulu. "Not going! Cannot do without you! Why, Cynthy, it will be just splendid: tennis and croquet and games, and supper in a tent! ice cream and everything nice, and a birthday cake with a ring, and twelve candles on it. And there are to be musicians out of doors, and fireworks in the evening. Why, there are men hanging the lanterns in the trees now—to see where they ought to be hung, I suppose," said practical Lulu. "Not let you go? I'm sure she will, if I ask her." Lulu started bravely for the house, intent on pleading for her friend.
But Cynthia called her back. "Don't go, Lulu, dear. Aunt Kate is very busy this morning. She does not think I care so much, and she won't like it either, if she thinks I'm spending my time talking with you, when the beans ought to be on the fire. A bean dinner," observed Cynthia, wisely, "takes so long to get ready."
"Does it?" said Lulu, beginning to pick with all her might. She was a sweet little thing, and she hated to have her friend left out of the good time.
"I won't be a baby!" she said to herself, resolutely. Presently there came a sharp call from the house.
"Cynthia Elizabeth! are you never coming with those beans? Make haste, child, do?"
Aunt Kate said "Cynthia Elizabeth" only when her patience was almost gone; so, with a quick answer, "Yes, Aunt Kate, I'm coming," Cynthia left Lulu and ran back to the buttery, sitting down, as soon as she reached it, to the weary task of stringing the beans.
Lulu, meanwhile, who was an idle little puss—her mother's pet—sauntered up the road and met Effie Dean's mother, who was driving by herself, and had stopped to gather some late wild roses.
"If there isn't Lulu Pease!" she said. "Lulu dear, won't you get those flowers for me? Thank you so much. And you're coming this afternoon?"
"Yes, 'm," said Lulu, with a dimple showing itself in each plump cheek; "but I'm so very sorry, Mrs. Dean, that my dearest friend, Cynthy Mason, has to stay at home. Her Aunt Kate can't spare her. Cynthy never can go anywhere nor do anything like the rest of us."
"Cynthia Mason? That's the pretty child with the pale face and dark eyes who sits in the pew near the minister's, isn't it?" said Mrs. Dean. "Why, she must not stay at home to-day." And acting on a sudden impulse, the lady said good morning to Lulu, took a brisk turn along the road and back, and presently drew rein at Mr. Mason's door.
She came straight into the buttery, having rapped to give notice of her presence, and with a compliment to Miss Mason on the excellence of her butter, she asked whether that lady could supply her with a few more pounds next week; then her eyes falling on the little figure on the doorstep, she said: "By-the-way, Miss Mason, your niece is to be one of Effie's guests to-day, is she not? Can you, as a great favor, let her come home with me now? I have to drive to the Centre on some errands, and Cynthia, who is a helpful little woman, I can see, can be of so much use if you will part with her for the day. It will be very neighborly of you to say yes. I know it's a good deal to ask, but my own girls are very busy, and I wish you would let me keep Cynthia until to-morrow. I'll take good care of her, and she shall be at home early. Lend her to me, please?"
"Cynthia's a good girl, but she's like all children—she needs to be kept at her work. She can go if you really wish it, Mrs. Dean, and I'll send for my cousin Jenny to stay here to-day. There are new boarders coming," she said, to explain her need of outside assistance. Miss Mason prided herself on getting through her work alone; hired help she couldn't afford, but she would not have had any one "under-foot," as she expressed it, had money been plenty with her.
"You are a wonderful woman," said Mrs. Dean, surveying the spotless tables and walls. "You are always so brisk, and such a perfect housekeeper! I wish, dear Miss Mason, you could look in on us yourself in the evening. It will be a pretty sight."
Miss Mason was gratified. "Run away, Cynthia; put on your best frock, and don't keep Mrs. Dean waiting," she said. In spite of her independence, she was rather pleased that her boarders should see the low phaeton at her door, the brown horse with the silver-mounted harness, and the dainty lady, in her delicate gray gown and driving gloves, chatting affably while waiting for Cynthia to dress. She offered Mrs. Dean a glass of her creamy milk, and it was gratefully accepted.
Cynthia came back directly. Her preparations had not taken her long. Her "best frock" was of green delaine with yellow spots—"a perfect horror" the lady thought; it had been purchased at a bargain by Mr. Mason, who knew nothing about what was suitable for a child. Some lace was basted in the neck, and her one article of ornament, an old-fashioned coral necklace with a gold clasp, was fastened just under the lace. The stout country-made shoes were not becoming to the child's feet, nor was the rim of white stocking visible above them at all according to the present styles. She was pretty as a picture, but not in the least arrayed as the other girls would be, whether from elegant city homes or the ample farm houses round about.
How her eyes sparkled and her color came and went when Mrs. Dean told her to step in and seat herself, then, following, took the reins, while Bonny Bess, the sagacious pony, who knew every tone of his mistress' voice, trotted merrily off!
Having secured her little guest, Mrs. Dean thought she would give her as much pleasure as she could. So they took a charming drive before pony's head was turned to the village. The phaeton glided swiftly over smooth, hard roads, between rich fields of corn, over a long bridge, and at last rolled into Main Street, where Mrs. Dean made so many purchases that the vehicle was soon quite crowded with packages and bundles.
"Now for home, my little one," said the lady, turning; and away they flew over hill and hollow till they reached the broad, wide open gates of the place known to everybody as Fernbrake, and skimming gaily down the long flower-bordered avenue, they stopped at the door of the beautiful house. The verandas looked inviting with their easy chairs and rockers, but no one was sitting there, so Cynthia followed her hostess shyly up the wide stairway, into a cool, airy room with white drapery at the windows, an upright piano standing open, and books everywhere, showing the taste of its occupants. Oh, those books! Cynthia's few story-books had been read until she knew them by heart. Though in these days it was seldom she was allowed to sit with a book in her hand, a book-loving child always manages somehow to secure a little space for the coveted pleasure. And here were shelves just overflowing with dainty, gaily covered volumes, and low cases crowded, and books lying about on window-seats and lounges.
Mrs. Dean observed the hungry, eager gaze, and taking off the wide-brimmed hat with its white ribbon bow and ends, she seated the little girl comfortably, and put a story into her hands, telling her to amuse herself until Effie and Florence should come.
A half-hour sped by, and then, answering the summons of a bell in the distance, the two daughters of the house appeared, and Cynthia was asked to go with them to luncheon.
Mrs. Dean was a little worried about Cynthia's dress, and was revolving in her mind whether she might not make her look more like the other children by lending her for the occasion a white dress of Florrie's, when, to her regret, she observed that Florrie's eyes were resting very scornfully on the faded green delaine and the stout coarse shoes.
Now if there is anything vulgar and unpardonable, it is this, children—that, being a hostess, you are ashamed of anything belonging to a guest. From the moment a guest enters your door he or she is sacred, and no true lady or gentlemen ever criticises, much less apologizes for, the dress of a visitor. Mrs. Dean was sorry to observe the sneer on Florrie's usually sweet face, and glancing from it to Cynthia's, she was struck with the contrast.
Never had Cynthia in her life been seated at a table so beautiful. The tumblers of ruby and amber glass, the plates with their delicate fruit and flower decoration, every plate a picture, the bouquet in the centre reflected in a beautiful little round mirror, the pretty silver tubs filled with broken ice, the shining knives and forks, and the dainty tea equipage, were so charming that she felt like a princess in an enchanted castle. But she expressed no surprise. She behaved quietly, made no mistakes, used her knife and fork like a little lady, and was as unconscious of herself and her looks as the carnation pink is of its color and shape.
Mrs. Dean meditated. She did not quite like to ask this child to wear a borrowed dress, and she felt that Florrie needed to take a lesson in politeness. Drawing the latter aside, she said, "My darling, I am sorry you should treat my little friend rudely; you have hardly spoken to her."
"I can't help it, mamma. She isn't one of the set we go with. A little common thing like that! See what shoes she has on. And her hands are so red and coarse! They look as if she washed dishes for a living."
"Something very like it is the case, I'm afraid, Florrie dear. I fear she has a very dull time at home. But the child is a little lady. I shall feel very much ashamed if she is more a lady than my own daughters. See, Effie has made friends with her."
"And so will I," said Florrie. "Forgive me, mamma, for being so silly." And the three girls had a pleasant chat before the visitors came, and grew so confidential that Cynthia told Effie and Florrie about the one great shadow of her life—the mortgage which made her papa so unhappy, and was such a worry to poor Aunt Kate. She didn't know what it was; it seemed to her like some dreadful ogre always in the background ready to pounce on the little home. Neither Effie nor Florrie knew, but they agreed with her that it must be something horrid, and Effie promised to ask her own papa, who knew everything, all about it.
"Depend upon it, Cynthia," said Effie, "if papa can do anything to help you, he will. There's nobody like papa in the whole world."
By and by the company began to arrive, and the wide grounds were gay with children in dainty summer costumes and bright silken sashes. Musicians were stationed in an arbor, and their instruments sent forth tripping waltzes and polkas, and the children danced, looking like fairies as they floated over the velvet grass. When the beautiful old Virginia reel was announced, even Cynthia was led out, Mr. Dean himself, a grand gentleman with stately manners and a long brown beard, showing her the steps. Cynthia felt as if she had been dancing with the President. Cinderella at the ball was not less delighted, and this little Cinderella, too, had a misgiving now and then about to-morrow, when she must go home to the housework and the boarders and the gathering of beans for dinner. Yet that should not spoil the present pleasure. Cynthia had never studied philosophy, but she knew enough not to fret foolishly about a trouble in the future when something agreeable was going on now.
In her mother's little well-worn Bible—one of her few treasures—Cynthia had seen this verse heavily underscored: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." She did not know what it meant. She would know some day.
I cannot tell you about the supper, so delicious with its flavor of all that was sweet and fine, and the open-air appetite the children brought to it.
After supper came the fireworks. They were simply bewildering. Lulu, the staunch little friend who had gone to Cynthia's in the morning, speedily found her out, and was in a whirl of joy that she was there.
"How did you get away?" she whispered.
"Oh, Mrs. Dean came after me herself," returned Cynthia, "And Aunt Kate couldn't say no to her."
"What made you bring your mamma's shawl?" asked Cynthia, as she noticed that Lulu was encumbered with a plaid shawl of the heaviest woolen, which she kept on her arm.
"Malaria," returned the child. "Mamma's so afraid of it and she said if I felt the teentiest bit of a chill I must wrap myself up. Horrid old thing! I hate to lug it around with me. S'pose we sit on it, Cynthy."
They arranged it on the settee, and complacently seated themselves to enjoy the rockets, which soared in red and violet and silvery stars to the sky, then fell suddenly down and went out like lamps in a puff of wind.
Suddenly there was a stir, a shriek, a chorus of screams following it, from the group just around the fireworks. A pinwheel had exploded, sending a shower of sparks in every direction.
All in a second, Florrie Dean flew past the girls, her white fluffy dress on fire. And quick as the fire itself, Cynthia tore after her. Well was it that the shabby green delaine was a woolen dress, that the stout shoes did not encumber the nimble feet, that the child's faculties were so alert. In a second she had seized the great shawl, and almost before any of the grown people had realized the child's peril, had smothered the flames by winding the thick folds over and over, round and round, the fleecy dress and the frightened child.
Florrie was only slightly burned, but Cynthia's little hands were so blistered that they would neither wash dishes nor pick beans for many a day.
Mrs. Dean bathed them in sweet oil and bandaged them from the air, then put Cynthia to bed on a couch in a chamber opening out of her own room. From time to time in the night she went to see if the dear child was sleeping quietly, and Mr. Dean, standing and looking at her, said, "We owe this little one a great debt; her presence of mind saved Florrie's life."
Early the next morning Bonny Bess trotted up to Mr. Mason's door without Cynthia. Aunt Kate was feeling impatient for her return. She missed the willing little helper more than she had supposed possible. She had arranged half a dozen tasks for the day, in everyone of which she expected to employ Cynthia, and she felt quite disappointed when she saw that Mr. Dean was alone.
"Another picnic for to-day, I suppose," she said to herself. "Cynthia may just as well learn first as last that we cannot afford to let her go to such junketings often."
"He's in the south meadow," she answered, civilly, pointing in that direction. "I see you've not brought Cynthia home, Mr. Dean. I need her badly. Mrs. Dean promised to send her home early."
"Mrs. Dean will call on you herself in the course of the day; and it is about Cynthia that I wish to consult her father, my good lady," said Mr. Dean, lifting his hat, as if to a queen, as he drove toward the meadow.
"Well! well! well!" said Aunt Kate, feeling rather resentful, but on the whole rather pleased with the "good lady" and the courteously lifted hat. A charming manner is a wonderful magician in the way of scattering sunshine.
The boarders, observing the little scene from the side porch, hoped that Cynthia's outing was to be prolonged. One and all liked the handy, obliging little maiden who had so much womanly work to do and so scanty a time for childish play.
When, however, at noon, Mr. Mason came home, holding his head up proudly and looking five years younger, and told how brave Cynthia had been; when neighbor after neighbor, as the news flew over the place, stopped to congratulate the Masons on the possession of such a little heroine—Miss Mason was at first puzzled, then triumphant.
"You see what there is in bringing up," she averred. "I've never spoiled Cynthy: I've trained her to be thoughtful and quick, and this is the result."
When Mrs. Dean first proposed that Cynthia should spend the rest of the summer at Fernbrake, sharing the lessons and play with her own girls, Aunt Kate opposed the idea. She did not know how one pair of hands and feet was to do all that was to be done in that house. Was she to send the boarders away, or how did her brother think she could get along.
Mr. Mason said he could afford to hire help for his sister if she wished it, and in any event he meant that Cynthia after this should go to school and study; for "thanks to her and to God"—he spoke reverently—"the mortgage was paid." Mr. Dean had taken that burden away because of Florrie's life which Cynthia had saved.
Under the new conditions Cynthia grew very lovely in face as well as in disposition. It came to pass that she spent fully half her time with the Deans; had all the books to read that she wanted, and saw her father and Aunt Kate so happy that she forgot the old days of worry and care, when she had sometimes felt lonely, and thought that they were cross. Half the crossness in the world comes from sorrow and anxiety, and so children should bear with tired grown people patiently.
As for Lulu, she never ceased to be glad that her mamma's terror of malaria had obliged her to carry a great shawl to Effie's lawn party. Privately, too, she was glad that the shawl was so scorched that she never was asked to wear it anywhere again.
A great many years ago in the morning of the world there was a boy who began by taking care of flocks, and ended by ruling a nation. He was the youngest of a large family and his older brothers did not respect him very much nor think much of his opinion, though they were no doubt fond of the ruddy, round-faced little fellow, and proud of his great courage and of his remarkable skill in music. For the boy did not know what fear was, and once when he was alone in the high hill pasture taking care of the ewes and the lambs, there came prowling along a lion of the desert, with his soft padding steps, intent on carrying off a sheep for Madam Lioness and her cubs. The boy did not run, not he; but took the lamb out of the lion's mouth, seized the creature by the beard and slew him, and thus defended the huddling, frightened flock from that peril. He served the next enemy a big, blundering old bear, in the same way. When there were no wild beasts creeping up to the rim of the fire he made near his little tent, the lad would amuse himself by playing on the flute, or the jewsharp he carried; and at home, when the father and sons were gathered around in silence, he used to play upon his larger harp so sweetly that all bad thoughts fled, and everybody was glad and at peace with the world.
One day an aged man with snowy hair and a look of great dignity and presence came to the boy's father's house. He proved to be a great prophet named Samuel, and he was received with much honor. In the course of his visit he asked to see the entire family, and one by one the tall and beautiful sons were presented to him until he had seen seven young men.
"Is this all your household? Have you not another son?" he inquired.
"Yes," said Jesse the Bethlehemite, who by the way was a grandson of that beautiful maiden, Ruth, who came out of Moab with Naomi, "yes, I have still a son, but he is only a youth, out in the fields; you would not wish to see him." But this was a mistake.
"Pray, send for him," answered the prophet.
Then David, for this was his name, came in, modest yet eager, with his pleasant face and his dark kindling eyes. And the prophet said, "This is the Lord's anointed," and then in a ceremony which the simple family seem not to have quite understood, he set the boy apart by prayer and blessing, poured the fragrant oil of consecration on his head, and said in effect that in days to come he would be the King of Israel.
David went back to his fields and his sheep and for a long while nothing happened.
But there arose against Israel in due time a nation of warlike people, called "The Philistines." Nearly all the strong young men of the country went out to fight against these invaders, and among them went the sons of old Jesse. Nobody stayed at home except the old men, the women and the younger boys and little ones. The whole country was turned into a moving camp, and there arrived a time before long when Israel and the Philistines each on a rolling hill, with a valley between them, set their battle in array.
I once supposed that battles were fought on open plains, with soldiers confronting one another in plain sight, as we set out toy regiments of wooden warriors to fight for children's amusement. But since then, in my later years, I have seen the old battlefields of our Civil War and I know better. Soldiers fight behind trees and barns and fences, and in the shelter of hedges and ditches, and a timbered mountain side makes a fine place for a battle ground.
Now I will quote a passage or two from a certain old book, which tells this part of the story in much finer style than I can. The old book is a familiar one, and is full of splendid stories for all the year round. I wish the young people who read this holiday book would make a point hereafter of looking every day in that treasure-house, the Bible.
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.
And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the first-born, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.
And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.
But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Beth-lehem.
And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.
And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;
And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.
For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army.
And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.
And David spake to the men that stood by him saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
By "carriage" is meant luggage, the things David had brought for his brothers, not a conveyance as in our modern sense.
The brothers were angry when they found David putting himself forward, in a way which they thought absurd, but their taunts did not deter him from presenting himself to King Saul, who was pleased with the gallant boy, and proposed to arm him with his own armor, a coat of mail, greaves of brass and the like. But "no," said David, "I would feel clumsy and awkward in your accoutrements, I will meet the giant with my shepherd's sling and stone, in the name of the Lord God of Israel whom he has defied."
The giant came blustering out with a tread that shook the ground. When he saw his little antagonist he was vexed, for this seemed to him no foeman worthy of his spear. But when the conflict was really on, lo! the unerring eye and hand of David sent his pebble from the brook straight into the giant's head, and the victory was with Israel.
And after that, David went to the palace and played sweetly on the harp to charm and soothe the madness of King Saul, on whom there came by spells a fierce and terrible malady. He formed a close friendship with Jonathan, the king's son, a friendship which has passed into a proverb, so tender it was and so true. After a while he married the king's daughter. He had a great many wonderful adventures and strange experiences, and in time he became king himself, as the Lord by his prophet Samuel had foretold and chosen him to be.
But better than all, David's deeds of valor and the great fame he had among the nations, which abides to this day, was, in my mind, the fact that he wrote many of the psalms which we use in our public worship, this, the twenty-third, is one of the very sweetest of them all:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
You must not think that David's life was ever an easy one. He always had hard battles to fight. Once, for quite a long period, he was an outlaw, much like Robin Hood of a later day, and with a band of brave young men he lived in the woods and the mountains, defending the property of his friends from other outlaws, and sometimes perhaps making forays against his foes, sweeping off their cattle and burning their tents and houses. Those were wild and exciting days, when the battle was for the strongest to win, and when many things were done of which in our modern times we cannot wholly approve. The thing about David which pleases me most is that he had a rare quality called magnanimity; he did not take a mean advantage of an enemy, and when, as occasionally it must be owned, he did commit a great sin, his repentance was deep and sincere. He lived in so much communion with God, that God spoke of him always as his servant, and he has been called, to distinguish him from other heroes in the Bible gallery, "The man after God's own heart." Whatever duties or trials came to David, they were met in a spirit of simple trust in the Lord, and with a child-like dependence on God's will.
David had many children, some very good and some very bad. His son Absalom was renowned for his beauty and for his wickedness, while Solomon became famous, and so continues to this day as the wisest among men, a man rich, far-sighted and exalted, who reigned long in Jerusalem after the death of David, his father, who passed away in a good old age. Wonderful lives are these to read and to think of, full of meaning for every one of us. And many, many years after both these men and their successors were gone there came to our earth, One born of a Virgin, who traced His mortal lineage back to David of Bethlehem, and who brought goodwill and peace to men. Even Christ our Blessed Lord.
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